Someone said something to me a few years ago and for some reason, it's popped back into my mind. Funny how that can be, isn't it? I don't even know the person who said it and will never see her again. Well, never say never, but I do think I have a better chance of being knocked out by a falling coconut in winter than ever again crossing paths with the woman.
We were on a cruise, one of those where you don't have assigned seating - you just show up and sit with different people each night at dinner. This type of arrangement has its pluses and minuses. Around the table that evening sat a newly married couple, two friends on a special birthday trip, and my husband and me. The conversation was awkward because the more we talked, the more it became clear that none of the pairs had much in common with each other. The two friends had left their husbands and pre-teen children for the week so they could celebrate one of them turning 40. They talked a lot about themselves and their lives, and pretty soon, one of the ladies started talking about her son. She was complaining that her husband would have a whim to get the son interested in a new sport, and foolishly spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on equipment before he knew if the son had the talent or even any desire for the new endeavor. The lastest sports-spending binge was for hockey. She said he spent two thousand dollars in one afternoon buying equipment for their son. And she lamented that in a few months, the son would be bored and move on to something else.
The conversation turned to something else, as things always go, and eventually I started talking about my own children. They were three and two (or maybe two and one, I don't remember). We must have been marveling at our beautiful plates of food at the time because I found myself explaining that it was interesting how much more my daughter would eat at mealtime if I spent a few extra minutes making her food look pretty. For example, when serving cheese, instead of cutting it into squares, I would use cute cookie cutters and make little shapes. Or if I cut her apples into french fry shapes instead of wedges, she liked that too. I mentioned (somewhat ironically, I suppose, considering our environment at the time) how peculiar it is how picky children can be. I mean, it's the same cheese, right?
Anyway, the woman with the spend-thrift husband looked at me and scowled and said, "Wow. Sounds like she's pretty High Maintenance."
I looked at my husband and my husband looked at me and we didn't say a whole lot more through our last bite of dessert.
And after dinner, we shook our heads. How could SHE accuse ME of having a high maintenance child? It's a stinking piece of cheese, for goodness sakes.
It doesn't matter. This conversation happened a while ago. But for some reason, it crossed the path of my mind today and I realized something.
My children are indeed high maintenance. They need hugs every day. Meals every few hours. Life-giving words of encouragement constantly. They need baths and clothes and fresh air and books. They need someone to play with them even when there's laundry and dishes and bills and housework. They need someone to clean their dirty laundry and read to them even when we're too tired. They need a mom and dad who love each other, who stick together no matter what, for the sake of their family and the generations to come. They need someone to tell them when they've done wrong and need to repent. They need someone to read to them, to discipline them, to encourage them. To teach them, to lead them, to disciple them, to let them go. To model forgiveness. To pray for them.
I wish I could go back in time and change the way I reacted to the woman at dinner. I would say, "Yes, you are right! She is high maintenance. And my son is too. From tending to every milk mustache and skinned knee to every meal or adventure I prepare for them, I consider it all joy. It's a calling and I love it."
My children are so high maintenance. They're that important.