“Nothing is so important that I would ignore my crying child.” I read those words in a parenting forum with a nod, assuming the woman behind them was either a flat-out liar, or she seriously neglected everything else in her life. To this woman’s horror, I had admitted to ignoring my children in an effort to teach them the world does not revolve around them and—assuming they are not bleeding, their limbs are intact, and the dog is not on fire—they can wait for me to finish washing the dishes. I have no qualms about letting my children scream, cry, or fuss to help teach them a little patience. Call me crazy, but that’s one of the basic jobs of a parent. In addition to feeding, clothing, and raising them in God’s Word, it is our job to prepare children to be at-least-semi-but-hopefully-fully functional members of society someday.
It Depends on a Child’s Age
Obviously, there are caveats. I don’t ignore a newborn unless I absolutely have to. And before you call Child Protective Services on me, there are most certainly times when we parents must ignore even the smallest of infants. For instance, while driving. I assume most people do take babies out of the house at some point, and even in a short 10-minute drive from the house to the grocery store, the baby could start crying. It’s what babies do. If I were to stop, pull over, get out, and attempt to soothe her every time she cried on these car rides, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m a working mom of three. It’s a miracle I get to the grocery store at all, let alone make it home with 90 percent of what is on my list. Then there’s the highway. Few things are harder to bear than listening to my baby wail while stuck in traffic with no exit in sight, but it happens. We do what we have to and then we move on.
Then there are the toddlers, who are just learning to verbally communicate, though frustratingly unable to do so as clearly as any of us (including them) would like. There’s boundary pushing, tantrum throwing, and for-apparently-no-good-reason crying in this stage. It is hard, on everyone. Yes, it would be wonderful if all parents had to do was speak lovingly while offering a hug to get them to stop screaming, crying, and flailing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live in fantasy-land. I live in reality with three little ones completely ruled by their Old Adam, who is selfish and sinful. Sometimes the only way to combat the attention-seeking, leg-kicking tantrum is to walk away and ignore them. It seems to be best for everyone’s sanity and blood pressure if we take a quick, two-minute time-out before discussing whatever injustice threw my little one into such despair.
As they get older, things become easier. They learn to say “excuse me,” and sometimes they even politely wait for me to finish whatever I’m doing before they either flood the space between us with the unabridged version of last night’s dream or ask to play on the iPad. With their growing communication skills comes my opportunity to explain why they must wait and why I can’t tend to them immediately. Of course, this seems to be accompanied with an increased propensity for sarcasm and back-talking when the explanation I give isn’t what they wanted to hear. Then it’s my turn to say “excuse me,” though in a more disciplinary tone, before I return to ignoring them.
I Only Have Two Hands
Things get tricky as you add more kids. With our three, it’s a safe bet that at any given time on any given day at least one of them is crying, fussing, or screaming. The only exception is when they’re all sleeping. When I’m on my own with the three of them (or even just two of them), despite my expert juggling skills, I often have to make the tough call of which kid to ignore while I tend to the other.
If I’m giving the two-year-old a bath and the baby starts crying in her crib, well, the baby can wait until her big sister is safely removed from the drowning hazard. If I’m reading Bible stories and saying prayers with the five-year-old and the two-year-old starts crying in her room, I have to quickly weigh the odds of whether ignoring her for the five minutes we need to finish up our recitation of the Apostle’s Creed and evening prayer is worth the risk of that crying then waking up the baby who I already spent 45 minutes trying to nurse and rock and bounce to sleep.
Sure, it’s easier when my husband is home. My man goes above and beyond on father duties despite everything else on his plate, and we have developed a fairly decent tag-team strategy. But this is life, with meals to cook and three tons of laundry to clean and fold, the kids can only entertain themselves for so long. With four hands and three kids, there’s still a pretty good chance someone will get ignored while we tend to the basic goings-on of our home.
I Love My Husband More Than My Children
I’m honestly not sure when this became equivalent to admitting to murder or adultery, but apparently it’s a thing.
Of course, Ayelet Waldman’s blasphemy was not admitting that her kids were less than completely wonderful, only that she loved her husband more than them. This falls into the category of thou-shalt-have-no-other-gods-before-me. As with many religious crimes, judgment is not applied evenly across the sexes. Mothers must devote themselves to their children above anyone or anything else, but many wives would be offended if their husbands said, ‘You’re pretty great, but my love for you will never hold a candle to the love I have for John Junior.’
I contend this heinous crime isn’t a crime at all in some social circles. It certainly isn’t in mine. Both my Christian and non-Christian friends encourage and celebrate when we place our husbands above our children, acknowledging that a strong marriage breeds a loving and thriving family. It’s not merely that we should love our husbands more, but that we must actually act on that love beyond the often-elusive date night. And that, my friends, means our kids need us to ignore them.
Rich Cromwell pushes for this, urging men to step it up, throw the kids in the backyard and love on us wives a bit more:
Always choose love? Don’t be ridiculous. Choose life. Choose joy. Choose to be reckless and passionate. Choose to make out. The kids will be just fine; their ancestors did survive a pretty brutal cave-dwelling, after all. Our love for them is constant. It’s not going to fade if we miss a trip to ride go-karts or eat bacon. They don’t need us to elevate them as little gods or hover above them from now until they depart the nest. They need to see us being stupid, being passionate. They need to see us groping their mothers.
Admittedly, I didn’t understand why men needed this push in the first place. Don’t husbands do this already? Maybe. Maybe not.
But whether they do it already or they need to start doing it more, our men can only do so much. They can be as reckless and passionate as they want to be, but if we don’t respond and give in a little, what’s the point? For the sake of our family and the promise of our kids’ futures, should they be blessed with spouses and children of their own, we have to do our part. That means not assuming that passionate kiss while we’re stirring the spaghetti or his hands rubbing our aching shoulders while we’re sorting the mail are an obvious request for some action.
No, that kiss may just be a kiss; let yourself melt in it. The spaghetti won’t overcook too much in the five seconds it takes to return some heat. And even if it does, who cares. It’s just spaghetti. That back rub may just be your man’s response to all the stress he sees you carrying. Let yourself enjoy it. Even when the kids start screaming, let your eyes close and accept the comfort in your husband’s hands on your body. It’s not that hard. The kids can wait. Go ahead and ignore them. It’s good for them in the long run.
Unless the dog is on fire.