“The way he follows you around and never wants to leave your side? I’d give anything for that.” I’d give anything for that. The words came from my husband. And they completely broke my heart. 

The “he” my husband was referring to was my three-year-old toddler, Big M. You see, that day had been one of those days. The kind of day that makes you want to check out of the whole parenting gig and take a plane to. . .well, anywhere. I had spent the past fifteen minutes pouring out my frustrations to my husband about every bad decision my oldest son had made that day (because he really is the sweetest kid, he just doesn’t make the best choices sometimes). I ranted and raved about how he had splashed water all over the bathroom floor, peed in the trashcan (yes, I know, and unfortunately I can’t say that this was the first time), and instigated a “wrestling match” with his little brother who isn’t even old enough to know what wrestling is, let alone how to do it. On top of that, everything was a battle that day. Any time I asked him to do something, he would smile at me with his ornery, rotten grin and do the complete opposite.

Until Daddy got home from work, that is. As soon as Daddy walked in the door and I announced I was leaving to maintain what was left of my sanity run a few errands, Big M suddenly became my best friend who just couldn’t bear to see me leave. With big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks, he cried that he “not got to see you all day” (he really knows how to do drama, in case you couldn’t tell!) to which I replied, as I always do, that I had been with him all day. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a question began rolling around in my mind– were you really with him all day? Sure, you were with him physically but were you there? Were you attentive and involved or were you distracted and disconnected?

As I looked back on our day, I cringed when I remembered how many times I had told him to “hold on.” I almost burst into tears when I remembered he had looked at me and said, “Mommy, play with me” to which I responded that we would play in “just one more minute.” You know what? That minute never came. There were floors to be vacuumed, rooms to be tidied and laundry to be folded, none of which mattered to him at all. They mattered to me. Ouch. I realized all the things I did for him, far outweighed the things I did with him. It’s no wonder he was my constant shadow who never wanted to leave my side. He was waiting for me to be there, to be present. He was inviting me into his world, only to be rejected time after time. Double, no, triple, no, quadruple ouch. 

So my husband’s words, they broke my heart because just eight short months ago, was the one who would’ve given anything. I worked full-time in retail for the first two years after my son was born and while I loved the job, I felt I was missing out on so much of his life. Those days I would’ve given anything for him to follow me to the bathroom. Or for him to ask me to be a part of his “construction site.” For him to want to spend every minute with me. Now here I was, with all those things, and doing nothing but grumbling and complaining about it. Talk about a lesson in humility.

I wish I could say the next morning I woke up magically transformed into a completely amazing, totally involved super mom, but I guess that’s someone else’s fairytale. If I can be completely honest, it’s still something I struggle with most days. But I’m learning. Learning to see beyond the orneriness and the tantrums to a little boy who just needs his mamma to be present. I know that we can make it happen with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love. And grace. Lots and lots of grace.

As for my toddler? He’s sleeping peacefully right now, but as soon as he wakes up I’m going to tell him we’re going to spend the day making Lego houses, painting tractors with finger paints and building the biggest construction site he’s ever seen. But before I tell him all that, I’m going to let him know he can follow me around any time he wants.

Lindsay Stauffer

Lindsay is married to the most supportive husband in the world and momma to two adorable rascals, who have turned her into a caffeine addict. She writes about marriage and motherhood on her Facebook page, Life Off The Record.