It Just Needed a Touch From Daddy.
One of the less enchanting aspects of parenting is the grizzling. My toddler has entered a grizzling phase. Not crying because he’s hurt or been told off – those are two very distinct sounds – just grizzling. Other types of crying are louder or more heart-wrenching, but this is the one that really gets to you. It seems like crying for crying’s sake, a monotonous background whinging that just doesn’t stop. It can sometimes seem like they don’t even want anything…or so I thought.
Some have accused this blog of painting a fairytale picture of parenting, of only ever including the good bits and making it seem like everything’s fine. It’s not. I think it’s better to focus on the positive, but I don’t shy away from the negative. I just don’t blog about it unless there’s a point. That would just be the adult, digital equivalent of grizzling.
So why am I writing about grizzling? Because I recently figured out what was sometimes behind it. I’m sure sometimes it really is just a mindless noise, a subconscious expression of general ongoing dissatisfaction, but there are other times when it’s driving at just one thing. He wants me. He wants daddy. Or mummy (works for both). My translator – often all at sea – finally gave a reading: “I want your attention daddy”, “I want a cuddle daddy”, “I just need you daddy.” So I just held him, and the grizzling stopped. Sometimes it just takes a touch from Daddy. Nothing else will do.
Why, I hear you cry, didn’t you pick him up earlier? Why weren’t you paying him enough attention? Well, ‘enough’ is a difficult measure to get right. Too much attention and they don’t learn to amuse themselves and/or you get nothing done (like writing blog-posts); too little attention and they wreak havoc or make life intolerable. It’s tricky. I frequently get it wrong, and I suspect most parents are the same. Life can’t revolve entirely around children, but neither are they accessories that can just be left in the corner while you do the thing you actually want to do.
Children are perhaps the most important pressure in life, but just one of many. I love quality time with my son, and I give him as much as I possibly can, but life doesn’t stop. Things need doing. Jobs around the house, managing finances, seeing people, serving at church, all these things clamour for attention. Time with your spouse to invest in your marriage, time for yourself to do what you love or just to rest. Most importantly, time with God, without which you shrivel like the leaves of a tree in a drought. It’s difficult to get the right balance in life, tough to build in margin around the edges and then protect that buffer zone from all the demands.
Maybe there’s another criticism that could be levelled at this post: none of this is exactly revolutionary, there’s nothing new here. Not yet, but bear with me. That moment of epiphany taught me two more things beyond the underlying reason for the grizzling. First, tactile time with your child is precious and necessary. I love rocking him to sleep, letting him snooze on me or play-fighting. I love the cuddles, the shoulder-rides and the helpless-with-laughter tickling. Every time it gets annoying how much he wants to be held, I remind myself how valuable this contact is. For bonding. For building his self-esteem. For banishing the doubts and fears. I also remind myself how soon it’ll all one day be gone. He won’t want to be held one day. There’ll come a time when he’s too old for this touchy-feely nonsense. I’m sure that stage will have its pros too, but I’m determined to enjoy the benefits of this age before they vanish with the nappies and the sippy cups.
Second, it taught me something about God. Namely, an aspect of our relationship with Him. How we never grow out of needing a touch from the Father. We might feel all grown up, like we’ve got everything sorted, but even then things can knock you, hurt you, confuse and undermine you. That’s when you cry out for your Father. I’m sure our constant complaints in His ears sometimes sound not dissimilar from a toddler’s grizzling, because we don’t see the bigger picture and can’t see past our own issues. Yet God still loves us. He always makes time for us. He’s always there, ready to wrap comforting arms around us.
Like other aspects of parenthood, this gave me an insight into the Father-heart of God. Insights into what it means to be both a son and a father at the same time. What difference has it made in my life? I’m more aware of and vigilant against my own incessant whinging and moaning than before. I’m readier to see God’s perspective. I’m more patient with my son and it’s far rarer that I grumble about the time he needs from me. God uses the less pleasant aspects of life to teach us important things. Are you willing to learn?