by Juliet K. Kennedy

“Mommy, can we go to the park?” my five-year-old son, Hayden, asked on our walk home from the library one afternoon a few months ago.
I glanced at the time on my cell phone. “Okay, but only for ten minutes. I need to start dinner before Dad gets home.”
Hayden giggled as he dashed down the dirt trail toward the park.  I lumbered along behind him, lopsided from the book-filled bag draped over my shoulder.  At the park, I plopped on a bench as Hayden climbed the play equipment.  I stretched out my legs and leaned against the back of the bench, intending to spend the next ten minutes relaxing.
“Mommy,” Hayden called out. “Will you play with me?”
I sat up from my comfortable position. “Oh honey, Mommy’s really tired.”
That afternoon, I just wanted to be a spectator on the bench.
“Please,” Hayden said, his brown eyes pleading with me.
“Maybe in a little bit,” I negotiated.
I leaned back again and watched Hayden as he glided down the slide. He ran past me and climbed on a swing.
“Mommy,” he said with a smile. “Can you push me?”
As much as I wanted to stay on the bench, I couldn’t disappoint my boy. So for the next several minutes, I pushed him in the swing.  His laughter rose, as he soared higher and higher, and soon I began to relax and laugh with him.
When he dismounted the swing, I headed for the bench, intent on staying there until it was time to leave.  But before I could sit down, Hayden found two broken branches and handed me one.  “Let’s sword fight!”
I accepted the stick and waved it back and forth, tapping Hayden’s every so often.  I grinned as I realized I’d just lost the battle to be a spectator that afternoon.  The enthusiasm of my five-year-old wooed me off the bench and into a playtime adventure.
During the next half hour, I played heartily with my son, wielding my stick in many more sword fights, guarding a section of a “make-believe” pirate ship, and chasing my son across the playground in a game of tag.  Soon, the concerns of the day dissolved and my fatigue faded.
At one point, I glanced over at an elderly man sitting on a nearby bench.  For a moment, I thought about how silly I, a thirty-seven-year-old mom, must look zipping down the slide and clambering up and down ladders and bars.  But as Hayden raced by me with a big smile on his face, I shrugged off my concern.  My little guy and I were having a blast together, and in that moment, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
On our walk back home, I sensed a deeper bond with my son. Something magical happened that afternoon at the playground.  But I had almost missed it, all because I wanted to be “just a spectator.”  I realized that, as a mom, I’m given choices each day of whether I actively participate in my child’s life or sit and watch as a spectator.  Busyness and fatigue often compete with my desire to participate and can easily keep me on the bench as a spectator.  That’s when it’s most important for me to be intentional about the time I spend with my son.  Sometimes, this means deliberately choosing to NOT finish a few items on my to-do list to allow more quality time with my son.  Other times it means forcing myself to stand up from the bench, even when I’m tired, and join my son in whatever activity he’s doing.
By being more than a spectator in our children’s lives, we not only nurture a deeper relationship with them, we also give them cherished memories.  Charles R. Swindoll once said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”  That day at the park when I chose to actively participate in my son’s playtime adventure, I deposited a handful of golden memories in my bank, too.

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Jenny is passionate about the important role of mothers in modern America. She believes the role of moms is often overshadowed by popular culture values… like the spotlight we place on celebrities and the celebrity lifestyle. Jenny wants moms everywhere to understand they are celebrities to their Creator.

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