I closed the door on 2 of my soon to be sleeping boys and snuck down the hall to have some alone time with my oldest. He was leaning against my bed looking at a magazine on my nightstand. He didn’t notice me coming around the corner, and I couldn’t help noticing how much taller he seemed. Sensing my presence, he turned towards the door where I was standing. The soft lamp light reflected off his glistening eyes. His best efforts couldn’t disguise the crack in his voice as he began to talk.
“Why are some kids orphans? Did their parents die? Or did they just not want them?”
The stress of the day that caused the tension to develop in my body simply fell away in that moment. I felt my body soften as I watched my boy look into the eyes of a child who doesn’t feel loved.
“Each orphan has a different story. Some had parents who died, some had parents abandon them, some had parents who hurt them, there is a different story for everyone. It’s very, very sad.”
I reached down and hugged him so tightly. “Some have never felt a hug like this. Or had someone look them in the eyes and tell them they are special in God’s eyes and they are loved.”
His voice still shaky, he said, “If we had an orphan in our home, I would hug him all the time.”
“I know you would. I love that about you. Can I lay with you for a few minutes so we can just talk?”
“Sure.” He never hesitates. This boy is quiet. He will rarely fight to be heard. He always takes the backseat to his brothers. For him it is pointless to fight to be heard. But he has a lot to say. And so he began. I said few words back. I simply lay next to him. I would have laid in silence if that is what he wanted. But he had a lot to say. He told me about school, his friends, who has a crush on who, who gets along with who. He talked about what it felt like to pitch in his baseball game. He simply talked. I simply listened, nodded, affirmed.
I have underestimated the power of simply being with my children. Simply being physically present and completely undistracted with them.
It only took about 15 minutes. A 9-year-old can say a lot in 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes further strengthened our relationship, built up the trust and openness. It was a time for him to be heard. It was a time for him to share his heart in an easy and non-threatening environment. A time that he wasn’t listening to demands or being corrected for something or asked to do something.
We need these times. We need to store up as many as we can. Because times will come when the relationship feels rocky, when they are going through emotional and physical changes that they can’t understand. We need these times to fall back on. We need these times to create the bonds, to form a strong connection, to build trust. We need them now, before the rocky times arrive. It’s much harder to build the relationship in the midst of struggles.
That time with my son reminded me of what is in his heart. Compassion is in that kid’s heart. He deeply cares for others, which causes him intense pain at times. This helps me to realize in those times when I question why he could do what he just did, that his heart goes deep. And sometimes that 9-year-old tries to protect that heart. When he allows me in, I have a chance to keep that heart soft and let him know it’s all ok.
We all want someone to care enough to listen to what we have to say.