When I was 19 and in college, I started working at a preschool at a church in Indianapolis. I have worked there off and on ever since. My boss and co-workers are great. They have been flexible with the birth of both of my girls and our travel to Cuba, hiring me whenever I need a job and they have an opening, and letting my sub when they don’t have an opening and I need some extra money. They have graciously let me take both of my girls to their preschool program for free while I work. It’s a job made in heaven for this mom.
Currently I work two days a week. I leave with Isabel about 7:15, before Ava wakes up for school. Jimmie gets Ava on the bus, then I am home by the time she gets off the bus at 3:45. It has been a pretty good system for us.
Recently, though, Ava has been complaining about me going to work. Many nights throughout the past eight months we have dealt with supposed stomach-aches, tears, and guilt-trips. Our typical conversation has gone something like this:
Ava: Are you working tomorrow?
Me: Yes, Ava, I work every Monday and Thursday. You know that.
Ava: I don’t WANT you to go to work tomorrow!
Me: Ava, you know Daddy will be here with you in the morning. I already laid out your clothes. He will get you on the bus. It will all be fine.
Ava: But I don’t WANT Daddy to get me on the bus. I want YOU to get me on the bus.
So the conversation goes. This has been a little unusual for Ava, considering she has always been a Daddy’s girl and most days would choose her dad in a flash! I have tried to comfort her, reminding her that many kids don’t have the luxury of having parents home to get them on OR off the bus. I have talked to her about what a blessing my job is to our family and how good it is for Isabel to go to school, just like she was able to go to that preschool. I have prayed with her, hugged her extra tight. I have tried waking her up before I leave for work, just to say goodbye. I have tried sending her morning texts before I clock in at work. I have even talked to her on the phone before she gets on the bus. None of it worked. The complaining had been getting worse and worse.
Fast forward to this past Monday. She begged me to wake her up before I left for work. When I did, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and started sobbing. I eased her back to sleep. That night at the dinner table, we had a discussion. It went something like this:
Me: Ava, we really need to talk about how you react to me going to work. I feel like you are trying to make me feel really guilty and I don’t understand why.
Ava: (tearing up) I just want you home in the morning.
Me: Ava, Daddy is always here with you. We never leave you alone. I just don’t understand.
Jimmie: (thank God for Jimmie) Ava, does it bother you that Mommy isn’t close to your school during the day?
Ava cried, nodding her head. Thanks to Jimmie’s probing question, the reality of what she was feeling hit me hard. I work 35 minutes away. Jimmie works 45 minutes away. Ava has been worried all this time that if something happened at school, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be close.
We went on to have a conversation about what would happen in an emergency. We eased her fears by letting her know we both always have our cellphones and that our neighbor and friend Tasha is almost always home during the day. She relaxed and didn’t say anything about me going to work on Thursday.
As I have thought this week about Ava’s internal struggle, I have had great empathy for her feelings. I have recognized a similar longing inside of me. It has been a prayer, a stirring in my soul for as long as I can remember. I have cried it out. I have worried about it, whispered it as a prayer in the middle of the night. It has been the plea of my heart and will continue to be as long as I live. It is the cry of a vulnerable child to a loving parent.
God, just let me know that you are close.
Lord, no matter what path you have placed me upon, let me feel your presence near.
Be close enough that I may hear your still, small voice.
Be present in my life, that I may see your beauty in the many moments of my day.
When I cry, send comfort.
When I am broken, mend the pieces of my life.
When I find myself in the mire, lift me out with your ever-present hand.
When I call upon your name, come to my rescue as only you can.
Jesus, just let me know that you are near.
“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1)
Have any of you had any similar experiences with your children? Can you relate to my prayers? Do you feel God near? Do you worry when you don’t feel him close or can you rest in knowing he is there whether you feel him or not? I would love your feedback!
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