Just In Case
Mom and Dad are both engineers, and, having survived layoffs to this point, are among those doing impossible jobs for a large company. Mom now often has to travel during the week, which leaves Dad working his regular job and taking full responsibility for their six children under the age of twelve after the babysitter goes home at 5:00 p.m.
This particular week, two of the kids were suffering from some malady that left them throwing up all night, so of course Dad hadn’t gotten much sleep. This didn’t help his mood. At eight o’clock one evening, he wearily went into the family room and flipped on the TV. His seven-year-old son came and sat with him.
“Have you finished your homework?” Dad inquired.
“Daddy, I do my homework first thing when I get home from school every day—just in case—you might not be too tired to talk later on.”
In an instant, Dad flipped off the TV, turned to his son and said, “Let’s talk. What happened in your day today?”
Tears filled my eyes when I heard this story. Every day that child makes space just in case his dad has time and energy to talk. Every day. And that dad didn’t even know this. In the end, I wonder who needs that conversation more, the child or the dad?
There are so many directions in which this little story draws me:
Fathers: One of the sweetest memories of my own father was when he would come and take me out of bed early in the summer evenings. Giving me a piggy-back-ride, so my bare feet wouldn’t get dirty, and carrying a flashlight in his hands, we searched together in the garden for crickets following their gentle sound. Such memories last forever and shape little lives.
Attention: This past week I read an article in the news on pet obesity. It suggested that when our pets seem to be begging for food, they may really be asking for attention and for play. The life of a stay-at-home pet can be pretty dull. Tossing an extra treat their way is easier to give than attention, but what do our pets really need more? Attending to another being doesn’t cost us much, in fact it can be really energizing. Why do we pull back so often?
Prayer: Then I think of God, always making time in case we’re not too tired to talk. We don’t even know it most of the time, just like the dad didn’t know that every day his son did his homework first thing and then was ready, just in case. Consider how God may be like that quietly waiting child. No matter how tired you are, turn off the TV and say, “Let’s talk.”
May your family room become sacred space; may your conversations become prayers; may your life become grounded, knowing that every day, every day, someone is waiting just in case you might not be too tired to talk.