I'll admit I was getting a little frustrated. There were only a few days of summer left and much to get done around the house. Yet, every time I asked one of the children to "go do _____", nothing happened. Anyone ever experienced that?
I would rush off to get something done myself, and return to find nothing different, and it was beginning to really bug me. I even told them they could "go play basketball, go swimming, go do something outside." I figured they would not be bored then, and I could work without interruption at least. That didn't work either. They didn't want to play outside. I knew the oldest two had a lot on their plates with extracurriculars already in full swing and summer reading assignments to finish, but surely someone could help out, right?
At the end of the day, with the three youngest in bed, I wandered out back to feed the dog. On a whim, I picked up a basketball and started shooting some baskets. (Clarification - I attempted to shoot some baskets. I am not any good at basketball.) Within minutes, my two oldest boys joined me. Weren't these the same kids that told me all day that they didn't feel like playing basketball? Oh, well. They were finally there, and we had fun. They play basketball like football players - for good reason - and we had a great time getting sweaty, laughing, and making up ridiculous contests. Whoever can make a shot from the far corner with his eyes closed gets taken out for sushi. Stuff like that.
The next morning we were in church. I looked at my kids. Ashley was on my right, leg touching mine, holding her little sis on her lap. Cameron was on my left with his head on my shoulder. Yep - my great big football-playing prankster of a high-school age son. Isaac was close in on Ashley's right, and Joseph was snuggled in my lap, all arms and legs, trying to get comfortable. The only two missing were Greg, who was on the stand up front, and Garrett, who was sitting with some friends of ours. We took up only a couple feet of space on a large, half-empty (because we were all squished together) bench.
My first thought was that none of us have any concept of personal space. Then I realized something better. They love me. They like to be close to me. I realized that maybe I should stop telling them to "go do _______", and maybe invite them to "come do _________ with me." See the difference?
So, I tried it. Instead of telling child A to clean the kitchen while I did the laundry, I could rinse dishes and talk while they emptied the dishwasher. Then I helped child B fold and hang the laundry while we chatted. Everyone was happy, felt loved and helped, and we got a ton done.
One of my favorite children's songs states, "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way." I guess I always thought about that in terms of the duty of a parent (whether that is our Heavenly Father or us as parents here) to teach, lead and guide. I understand that. That particular day, the love inherent in the words "walk beside me" sunk deep into my heart. Isn't that what we all need? How much more pleasant is any task with someone you love to share the burden?
I won't be able to help with every chore, nor would I want to if I could, but my new goal is to love my children by walking beside them a bit more - to invite instead of dismiss, and to let them know by my actions how truly dear they are to me.