“Daddy, can you…”
And you can fill in the blank with the rest, can’t you? Color this with me, look at the battle I set up with Lego’s, read me this book… and the list goes on and on. This is the life of the parent; it’s the constant stream of requests without, for the most part, the corresponding number of “thank you’s.” That’s what we do, moms and dads, day in and day out. We stand ready to answer the call of “can you…” with everything from the made peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the required, um, “help” in the bathroom.
As we stand ready, sometimes our standing is more willing than others. There are times when I think to myself, “Yes son, or yes daughter, I can. And I would love to do that, because I know way down deep inside me that the way I interact to these requests is in some small way forming the picture you have of God. If I resent you for this request or if I behave impatiently or dismissively then that’s another layer to the mountain of doubt about the nature and character of God you’ll have to face later in life. So yes indeed, fair offspring, I can and I will.”
Then there’s the other 98% of the time when I can do the thing that’s being asked of me, but I just don’t feel like. I feel like having a conversation with my wife, or reading my book, or watching my ballgame. But here is a truth that I was recently reminded of by a much more seasoned parent than me, and it’s one that I think has the potential to change the way I react to these requests.
Chances are, that kid who is standing there with the coloring book or the snotty nose or the football or the aspiration to the world’s most incredible game of tag imaginable isn’t really asking me for two hours; he or she is really asking me for five minutes.
I might not have the time for two hours; but I’ve almost always got the five minutes they’re really looking for.
Now this may be a newsflash to you, but I’ve gleaned over the last several years that children don’t have an incredible attention span. They move from one thing to another like shooed mosquitoes. Most of the time they think they’ve got an idea to play or an activity in mind that is going to occupy them for hours and hours on end, but they don’t. They’ve got a great idea that they’ll enjoy for 5 or 10 minutes. And I’ve got time for that.
So today, when my children bring me the “… can you…” I’m going to try by God’s grace to think of it as it really is, not as it might be. And here’s what it really is: It’s an opportunity, for just 5 minutes, to show my kids that they’re more important than my phone or my game. It’s a chance to proactively chip away at that mountain of doubt about God that they might really face someday. It’s a chance, knowing that they might not remember that particular 5 minutes, but they will remember the accumulation of hundreds of 5 minutes’ over the course of a lifetime, to demonstrate the face that God is never too busy. Not for them.
And not for me either.