This afternoon, Debbie got back from a weekend at the annual Children’s Ministry conference in Eastbourne. Managing the children and preparing for this morning’s service has been quite a stretch since she left around 5:30 am on Friday. (She had another call to make in Sussex first.)
It hasn’t been the juggling of responsibilities so much, although that has been a factor. Anyone who spotted that today’s sermon only appeared on the blog in the early hours of this morning rather than yesterday evening as usual will get a hint of that.
This morning, we loaded up my car with all sorts of distractions to occupy them during the service, since it was one of the alternatve weeks when Sunday School doesn’t happen. Scrap paper, pens, cuddly toys and games all made their way to church – where we were told that two current Sunday School teachers and one former teacher had arranged a session especially for our kids, knowing I would be coping on my own with them while trying to lead a communion service. How kind is that?
No, the real issue has been dealing with the children’s emotions while mummy has been away. They are used to her being away for a day or two here and there, normally dealing with something to do with her house that we retained when we married and which we let through an agent. However, familiarity with Debbie’s short term absences never makes these times emotionally easier for them.
They coped better this time – there is a pragmatic virtue in keeping busy, maybe in the short term. So after school on Friday we went to the supermarket and bought some treats. (Bribery is good, too.) Yesterday, after Rebekah’s regular Saturday morning ballet lesson, we headed into town. Mark wanted to check one of our two Waterstone’s branches to see whether the one book he doesn’t have in the latest Thomas the Tank Engine series was in stock. It wasn’t. Rebekah wanted a visit to her favourite place of worship, Claire’s Accessories, a place of torture for males, and so Mark played up something rotten while we were in there. On the way back to the car, a detour to Millie’s Cookies at least gave us the chance to sample their raspberry and white chocolate flavour.
It all broke down yesterday tea-time. Debbie phoned for a chat with the little monkeys before they headed for the bath and bed. Rebekah told her how much she was missing her, and Debbie replied that she would be back with some presents for them, something I knew from a text message she had sent me in the afternoon.
“Mummy, I like presents but I want you more than the presents,” was Rebekah’s devastating reply from the heart.
And I thought, if only more of us could reply like that – to one another, and especially to God.