It's not about the actual question. It's about connection.

S ome days I just shake my head at my kids’ questions and carry on an inner dialogue about how anyone could possibly be that oblivious. At other times I ponder how someone with the GPA I carried through high school, college and grad school could produce progeny who see these as valid life questions.

And yet, they continue to surprise me with their queries into the obvious.

I generally chalk it up to the maturing process and respond with an exaggerated eye roll and a heavy sigh.

But there are times, when the same question keeps coming up, that I finally wise up enough to realize that maybe the question isn’t as ridiculous as it first appears.

Case in point:

I’ve just had a new baby and am struggling with a lack of sleep and rational thought. Every morning I ask my five-year old daughter to get herself dressed. And every morning she responds, “But Mom, I want you to pick out my clothes.”

I remind her that she is fully capable of picking out her own clothes and getting herself dressed. And that, as a maturing 5-year-old, it is good for her to be taking on more responsibility. She nods her head in agreement and then asks, “But can you pick out my clothes, today, please?!”

After a couple of weeks or maybe months of this (it was a pretty hazy time period for me), I finally had an epiphany. She’s not asking me to help her because she isn’t capable of doing this on her own. She’s asking me because she wants connection.

When I thought through her clothing choice process, she didn’t just ask me to help her pick out clothes each morning. She first informed me who she was planning to be that day. This was usually connected with whatever book we happened to be reading or movie she was watching. Some days she was a prairie girl like Laura Ingalls, others she was Violet from the Boxcar Children, and at least twice a week she was some sort of princess. And she needed help picking out the appropriate attire for the character she was playing.

Yes, as a reasonably capable 5-year-old, she could pick out her own clothes and dress herself. But she wanted me to enter into her imaginary world and know who I was going to be interacting with that day so I would be able to respond appropriately. This set the tone for her whole day with me and resonated with her little girl heart.

Once I figured that out, I gladly picked out her clothes every day. And I rejoice that, at age 12, she stills ask me to do the same thing several times a week. In fact, I’ll probably have a silent cry when the day comes that she stops asking.

Other case in point:

This summer my 6-year-old son kept asking me to come snuggle with him during rest time. “Mom, I’ve got a song on my Hank the Cowdog CD that you really need to listen to and we could snuggle while we listen to it!”

I kept reminding him that rest time was a time for Mom to have a break and some quiet time for herself. And that we all are generally much happier and get along better in the afternoon if Mom has this alone time. (Cue my tween daughter nodding her head and emphatically agreeing with this statement.)

Still the question kept coming. After a few days of this I stopped to think about what he was really asking. This is the same little boy who now wipes off all of my kisses. And he was volunteering to snuggle with me? Something in his litttle boy heart was longing for connection.

So, I told him I’d snuggle with him at rest time when big sis was off to her next all-day camp. I found a spot in between a stuffed snake and some superheroes and settled down with my boy to listen to Hank the Cowdog. It is possible that the voices of Hank and Drover put me to sleep. It’s also more than possible that this wasn’t the best nap I’ve ever had due to a little boy laughing out loud and messing with my hair in-between bouts of poking me. But the smile he had for me when I left his room was worth it.

The reality is I can’t snuggle with him every day. And he gets that. But it is also true that there are certain days when I can take five minutes and lie down with him and listen to a few minutes of whatever story has currently captured his fascination. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, he just lights up.

Life is busy, sometimes crazy. And sometimes the questions our kids repeatedly ask can seem like the last straw. But for those of us who aren’t the quickest learners when it comes to these scenarios, here are a couple things to consider:

No. 1: We can’t always respond to everything just the way our kids want or as often as they’d like. And the more kids you have the harder this is. But when we take the time to figure out what they are really asking and respond to that, we give a gift to them and to ourselves. Instead of beating our head against a wall and wondering why they can’t get this through their heads, we can change it into an opportunity to connect with their hearts.

No. 2: These moments are opportunities to love like Jesus. He eagerly invited the little children to come to him. In the midst of a busy, crazy life he heard the heart of the children, of his disciples, of those who asked him for healing and hope. Can we grant our kids the same gifts Jesus so readily gave to others and gives to us—to hear their hearts and respond with thoughtfulness and intentionality?

So, on days when you feel like this…

...take a deep breath, and ask Jesus to help you hear the heart behind the questions your kids are asking. Sometimes they are goofy, crazy, absolutely ridiculous questions. But sometimes they are about more than they seem on the surface. And they afford us a beautiful opportunity to love our kids just like Jesus loves us.