As it's gotten (a bit!) quieter around the Clarkson house these past few years, I love looking back on memories of previous seasons and the lessons I learned in them ... Half past ten in the evening found me downstairs, dragging my weary body on a tour of my four children's bedrooms to say good night. I had been up since four that morning, and all I could think of was my own bed and how I longed for sleep. Nathan's room was my last stop, and I hoped for a quick good-night so I could finally be through with this stress-filled day.
It was the Christmas season in a new home. All four of my children were lonely, missing the familiarity of friends and the flurry of activity that normally comes with the Christmas bustle. But thirteen-year-old Nathan, in his extroverted, adolescent-hormone-filled body, had been hit the hardest. Though he has a heart of gold and was trying hard to use self-control, he had a puppy-dog look in his blue eyes that begged for attention. To be honest, I didn't think I had it in me. I felt drained and wrung out just trying to keep all four children happy and cared for in their restless need for more than I had to give.
I sat on Nathan's bed, prayed a quick good-night prayer, said a hasty "see you in the morning, honey," and bolted for the door in hopes of making a quick retreat to my room. After all,I had fulfilled my obligation as a good mom to "tuck in"all of my children.
Then Nathan's pleading voice quietly taunted me. "Don't you even have a few minutes that we can talk?" I mustered my own self-control, sat back down on his bed, and tried hard not to show my desire to leave as quickly as possible. "What do you want to talk about?" I queried. "Oh, nothing. I just wanted someone to be with." "How about I scratch your back?" He turned over on his bed, and I slowly began to "soft tickle" his back, a phrase coined by our family when Sarah was a little girl. As I began this labor of love, questions, thoughts, ideas, and dreams started pouring out of Nathan's mouth. The longer I scratched his freckled back, the more he seemed to relax.
"I hope someone will ask me to do a magic show at a birthday party soon, Mom. Do you think anyone will see the fliers I put up?...What are we going to do tomorrow?... Do you think we can have an open house for all the neighbors on Sunday?...When do you think we can take a trip back to Colorado? Mom, don't you think Kelsey is a good dog? She doesn't mean to be so wild; she's just a puppy. Sort of like me, I guess.... What do you think we should get Joel for Christmas?... Do you really think I'm a good writer?"
One thought spilled into another as the minutes ticked away. And I could feel my irritation gradually draining away too. I couldn't help thinking how blessed I was to have a teenage child who wanted to share the company of his frumpy mother.
When the spilling out of Nathan's heart seemed to be slowing down, I did one final flurry of scratching his back and then pulled down his T-shirt to close this time of sweet fellowship, which would be in my memory forever.
"Thanks for taking the time, Mom," Nathan said as he gently reached up to kiss my cheek. "It meant a lot to me."
It's hard for all of us--especially in the hurry and flurry of Christmas--to take time to stop and listen to our children. But I've realized that's the most important thing of all. If I want my children to be open to hearing the messages I have for them, I must listen to the ones they have for me. How can you take time to listen to the hearts of the precious ones in your own walls, this Advent season?