I remember one of my friends saying this YEARS ago in reference to Jesus— that His presence is our present. (Shoutout to YOU if you are reading).
At that time it was a very stirring statement, but like all novel things and revelations, over time it became less of a wowing revelation and more common knowledge in my life.
About a week ago I was feeling somewhat at a loss with my toddler. If you know our family, you know that my two year old daughter packs the sass. And don’t get me wrong— I love it. At least I think I do. I usually tell myself that I don’t know if I should be proud or scared… the apple fell so close to the tree. But taming a strong willed toddler is a whole topic worthy of its own post.
So I was at a loss. I felt like nothing seemed to be “working” with her. She was more irritable than normal and struggling to do simple things that are ordinary recurring tasks in our home. As she became more ornery I found myself feeling frustrated with her over the smallest little things— though they were all somewhat normal toddler behaviors.
Then I had a moment. I was trying to clean the kitchen, feed her brother, put away laundry, and update our family budget app, and my toddler was doing every possible thing she could to prevent all of the above. She “accidentally” spilled her snack all over the kitchen floor, grabbed baby brother’s bottle and shoved it even further into his mouth, unfolded my freshly folded laundry, tried to pull my phone from my hand, and cried every time I told her no.
When I reached my breaking point, which came so quickly I surprised myself, I sat her screaming brother on the floor and put her in her bed for a nap— an hour and a half before nap time.
And then I held my crying baby and cried with him. I was at a loss. Why in the world was my toddler pushing every single one of my buttons? And why did I feel so guilty as if somehow she wasn’t doing something wrong?
And then I remembered that phrase.
My presence is her present.
The reason I felt so guilty was because my sweet toddler was actually crying out for help in the only way she knew how.
I was spending all of my time doing all the things that I felt like were most important, and my toddler truly was doing every possible thing she could to prevent me. Not because she’s a mean and unruly toddler, but because she’s longs for my affection.
She was acting out because she was begging me for my presence.
And YES, my toddler is on the more needy end of the spectrum in general, but there truly was a void in her life and in her little heart. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. My toddler is obviously going to have hard days, but I can lessen those hard times by giving her what she actually needs.
Because even though I think all the things that need to be done are so important, my presence truly is the best gift I could give her.
Does she need a clean house and folded laundry and an empty dishwasher? I think she does (insert total awareness of the truth). And on some levels, yes. But on her level? No.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am huge proponent of getting stuff done. I have a whole post on why the laundry can’t wait— and I feel just as strong about that as I did a year and a half ago.
But I am learning more and more as each day passes that these precious moments are flying by, and I only get so many chances to show her that she is more important to me than wiping the counters.
As much as I want to teach my daughter that life happens and we have to work and get things done, I also want to teach her that connectedness is one our greatest values.
I want her to know that mama works hard, but that nothing is more important than touching her heart. And doing the dishes while asking her to be quiet so she doesn’t wake up her brother… that doesn’t touch her heart. At least not when that’s her experience all day, every single day.
There will be times when I tell her to play by herself and she won’t like it. There will times when she has to be quiet— we are huge respecters of naps around here. And there will be times when I simply don’t want to eat another bowl of play cheerios with her.
And that is okay.
But if I can remind myself of the beauty of my undivided attention in her life, I truly believe my heart will change. And as my heart changes, I know that those “absolutely necessary” tasks in my life will actually feel less critical, and her heart will take priority.
And I won’t have to force myself to choose her over the tasks. It will come naturally as I make the intentional choice to let my presence be her present.