You know the kind of day. Let’s knock out some projects and decimate the to-do list that’s been mocking us for, well, too long. I crossed off several tasks, but the dreaded job could no longer wait. My kids had been looking for clean clothes. Meanwhile four overflowing baskets of clean laundry were scattered around my room, not to mention the entire additional basket of unsorted, unmatched socks. They had been collecting there for weeks. (It turns out that its less than ideal to have empty sock drawers in the brunt of winter.)

Throughout the next hour of fiercely folding and putting away laundry, I ran up and down the stairs 5 times tending to the “urgent” needs of my 8 and 5 year old – namely settling disputes and admiring the newest jump rope trick or nature find. I was ready to be done, but still had the sock monster to tame when my 8 year old daughter called up with a whining tone, “Mom!” Sauntering to the top of the stairs feeling slightly annoyed, I resolved to breathe and stay calm.

“I was playing outside and accidentally hit my nose with the hard part of the jump rope! It hurts!”
I resorted to a controlled, instructive tone. “Give it a few minutes and you’ll be good.”
“It hurts!”
“Just rub it.”
“Then it will hurt more…”

My great ideas didn’t seem to be working.

“Put some ice on it.”
“Then I’ll get more cold.”
“What would you like for me to do?”

As she let out a reserved sigh, searching my countenance for safety, I now noticed a longing look in her eyes.

My choice was suddenly clear. Another deep breath.
“Do you want me to come give you a hug and a kiss?”
Recognizing the sincerity in my voice and eyes, she nodded her head “yes.” I came down, embraced her and kissed her nose. In my embrace, tension left her body and connection was affirmed. She sighed with relief and was back to her games moments later.

In the midst of her growing maturity, sometimes I feel like she doesn’t need me as much. But if I listen closely, I see that she still needs my hugs, my kisses, my reassurance, cuddle time, and talk time. It may look different, but she has needs that won’t be met except by the mysterious nurturing that God put in me to give to her. It’s a learning curve for sure, but I’m learning that its worth my effort to recognize these cues and trust the Holy Spirit to show me how to best meet them. It’s so easy to get busy with “life” and miss these cues, especially as they grow and perhaps those cues look different than when they were younger.

The longer I’m a parent, the more I realize that its really not the grand things our kids are looking for. Often its the very small things that – with some intentionality and grace – we can start to take small steps that will cultivate deep connections with our kids that we’ll reap the rewards of for years to come.

I’d love to hear about your family. How can you tell when your kids are needing your attention? What are your favorite ways to connect?