Lean in close. Closer. I have a secret. Even my thoughts whisper in my head as I ready myself to share it with you.
Shhh. Are you ready? I’m not. My fingers lightly tap the keyboard, unwilling to breathe reality into this personal struggle. Even shame.
Yes. Shame. Because here it is: I don’t like playing with my children.
There. I said it.
The proverbial band-aide has been ripped off, taking skin and esteem with it. I can’t stand playing pretend with my kids, and I don’t want to pretend perfect parenting with you.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. The kind of radical, I-would-die-for-you-and-risk-all-I-am-for-you love. Love spanning time and space. An insane love that, for sure, could scale Mt. Everest if need be.
I enjoy my children. Cherish walks and hearing little voices recount their day. Holding them. Brushing their hair. Laughing with their giggles as I tickle toes. Taking my daughter shopping or her brother to the park. I love being with them.
I just don’t like playing with them. Games of pretend tea parties send my head spinning. Super Hero missions make me want to flee the room screaming. Puppet shows and Barbie. Pirates and princesses. My insides cringe and my eye twitches.
Then comes the guilt. Always the guilt. It follows the shameful, “Not right now,” that gushes from my mouth because though my love is deep, it is not selfless.
But here’s the thing—I’m not sure I’m alone in my confession. Even if you do enjoy playing pretend with your children, I am sure there is something you don’t enjoy. Play-Doh? Legos? Books? There’s always something.
Shouldn’t I enjoy playing with my children—these pieces of my heart birthed in pain and struggle? My dreams of motherhood never looked like this. Who envisions locking yourself in the bathroom to escape one more game of Candy Land?
So what now? How do I become the mother I should be, knowing I will never love, never enjoy, some parts of motherhood? I have wrestled with these questions for years. Struggling between guilt and defeat.
In recent months, my Jesus has started to unwrap the edges of an answer in my heart. As I take the corners and lift with ginger hope, I find a smile. An “a-ha.” It begins with one word.
Sitting down, He (Jesus) called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Servant. Of all. Including my children.
I must serve my children. Not in the let-me-never-teach-you-responsibility-and-do-everything-for-you kind of serve.
Rather the allow-me-to-put-aside-my-own-selfish-desires-in-order-to-meet-your-needs kind of serve. Even if those needs happen to be building towers of blocks over and over and over again so your little one can continue to knock them down.
But Jesus wasn’t finished when he told his disciples to be last of all and servant of all. He continued…
Then He took a child, had him stand among them and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me…” (Mark 9:36-37a)
And now I know…
When I enter the space in the lives of my little ones and welcome them, all of their needs, all of their desires to play, I am welcoming Him. The One who took on the very nature of a servant when He sacrificed everything for me.
When I play with my children taking on the heart of a servant and lay aside selfish desires, I am welcoming Jesus.
When just doing the work of motherhood transforms to having the heart of a servant as I mother, well, my entire perspective changes.
When I serve my children, I serve my Savior.
It is a heart change, dear friends. And a heart change brings an attitude change. Peace rests upon my home when I take on the posture of a servant, ready to meet the needs of my children—my family. Whatever those needs may be.
Because becoming the mother I should be is never about me. And this is hard. Exhausting. Grueling. Serving others never begins easy. But it ends better.
Do I suddenly enjoy Princesses and Pirates? No. But my children do. So I will play. I will serve. Because saying yes to the servant’s heart is leaving guilt on the front door step of my home. It is putting regret out with the trash. It is telling shame to never call again.
Serving my children brings a fragrant offering of grace into my home, and that is worth far more than a few moments to myself.