This morning, I spent 90 minutes playing with blocks on the floor with my daughters. My mom is a big part of the reason I did it.
My mom is exceptionally bright, but she doesn’t have a college degree. She never had a prestigious job; she didn’t feed me organic foods; and she didn’t enroll me in Spanish immersion school. Furthermore, we didn’t have a lot of money, so she didn’t give me lots of toys either. But here’s what she did give me: her time, her attention, herself. And in doing so, she gave me a lot more than that.
From Candy Land to Baby Ruth
When I was a kid, I just assumed Mom wanted to do the activities I found interesting. Although I’m sure she did enjoy being with me, now that I’m a parent, I know it was more challenging than I realized.
I remember being five and Mom playing Candy Land with me before nap time. I thought it was great fun. I don’t know if you’ve played that game lately, but it’s not particularly challenging or fun. Nonetheless, Mom kept on flipping those cards, trying to beat me to the Candy Castle.
I remember Mom standing in a yellow, terrycloth tube-top in the backyard, spraying water on a shower curtain she spread onto the grass. Over and over, my brother and I ran and jumped onto the makeshift Slip n’ Slide as she held the water hose. I felt like I was at a theme park; but I imagine that standing in one place spraying the water hose got old after three or four minutes. If Mom got tired of doing it, she didn’t make that obvious to us.
I remember Mom taking me for a walk through the woods in Petal, Mississippi. When we came to a little stream, I didn’t know how to get around it without getting my red and white sneakers wet. She showed me how to toss a large stick in the middle of the stream and use it as a stepping stone. She could’ve just done that herself, but she took the time to explain it to me.
After we got through the woods, Mom took me to the Sunflower grocery story, bought a Baby Ruth, and split it with me. We sat on a curb together and talked about God knows what. Whatever the conversation was, I’m sure it was a lot less stimulating than the adult conversations she could’ve had if she were at work.
Mom’s Impersonation of God
Here’s what my mother communicated to me by playing Candy Land, setting up a makeshift Slip n’ Slide, walking with me through the woods, and having conversations with me: You are valuable. The little things you care about aren’t little things at all, because you’re important to me. What matters to you matters to me.
I believe God cares about us like that, and it’s important that we realize it. If we trust that He cares about the little things, we will be bold enough to ask Him to give us the little things. And when He provides those little things, we will be grateful to Him for “every good gift and every perfect gift,” which “is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
That’s why, as parents of young children, one of the most powerful ways we can teach the Gospel is to play with them, listen to them, spend time with them, and care about those things that are a big deal to them. If they believe we care about their concerns when they are young, they will be more likely to believe God cares about their concerns when they are adults.
So thanks, Mom – you thought we were just trying to make it to Candy Castle. You were teaching me how to receive the love of God.