My mom played a board game with me — and changed my life

I’ve spent a lot of time on the floor with my kids playing with all kinds of toys, including blocks, baby dolls and board games. The kids love being there with me and I love being with them too. One person they can thank for that is my mom.

Mom never had a prestigious job; she didn’t feed me organic foods; and she didn’t enroll me in a Spanish immersion school. 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.

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 recently, but it’s not particularly challenging or fun at all. Nonetheless, Mom kept on flipping those cards, trying to beat me to the Candy Castle.

I remember being three and my mom standing in a yellow, terrycloth tube-top in the back yard, 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 a few minutes. If Mom got tired of doing it, she didn’t make that known to us.

I remember Mom taking me for a walk through the woods in my hometown of 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.

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 trust Him with every area of our lives, which can sometimes seem so insignificant.

That’s why one of the most powerful ways we can teach the Gospel to our kids is to play with them, listen to them, spend time with them and care about those things that are important 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.

Check out my new book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which you can pre-order here. And if you’d like to receive a bi-monthly, spam free email about finding God in the ordinary of your everyday life, you can sign up here