The question coming from her five-year-old daughter caught my friend by surprise.
"Well honey, I love you both so much!"
But the inquisitive child would not let it go at that.
"I know. But which one do you love the most?"
In a moment of truth, my friend held her breath and prayed for how to respond to such a weighty question.
"Honey, I love daddy the most. When I married him, I promised to love him with my whole heart always. And out of that love, God gave us you as a gift."
And that was enough. The child smiled. Said "ok" and asked if they could have lunch now.
I have since pondered my friends wisdom in responding this way. No mother could ever bring herself to telling her child that they are second-best. In fact, I have had more than one friend tell me that they loved their husbands, but never really knew love at a certain level until they had children.
I know there is a nurturing maternal instinct that is kindled when a wee babe is laid in your arms for the first time, but Im sad to think that love is platonic with your child to a degree that it is lacking with your spouse.
We are women. We are need-meeters. We are "first responders", to the dirty diapers, the science project disaster, the stomach bug epidemic and the Mount Neverrest of laundry. By default, we will usually respond to the most urgent need which in our mind equates to the one that cries the loudest. Typically, that's not going to be our husbands.
While his needs are no less valid, and cognitively we know that, we still presume that his requests and preferences can take a back seat as we meet the pressing needs of our children.
The scinarios are endless...
He is telling you about his day at work and your child comes in screaming with a bloodied knee.
We respond to the child in pain.
You offer to iron his shirts, but get waylaid when your first grader needs help with homework.
We respond to the child in need.
When the kids are tucked in and you at last find a moment to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie with him, someone wakes crying with a bad dream.
We respond to the child in fear.
I find myself a dozen times a day getting side-tracked with the fuller than full time job of being a mother.
But what about his needs and desire for relationship.
I would venture to guess that a great number of compromised marriage relationships result from us loving our kids more than our husbands. And we are not doing our children a favor friends! Kids develop an egocentric position in families that allow them to take the uttermost priority of time and attention. Life can easily revolve around their time table, their soccer practice, dance rehearsals, swim team and cub scouts.
We have worked really hard recently on making our marriage the priority over children. I think our kids are far from neglected, so let me explain...
Our kids need to know that we are on a team. That we are eachothers best friend and that we love eachother the most. I think our kids feel secure in that reality.
That means Im working on not challenging a decision that C makes regarding the children that I may disagree with.
Because I trust him and I defer to him.
That means we don't allow the children to interrupt us when we're having a conversation in the car. Because our discussion takes priority over their squabble in the back seat.
That means the first fruits of our time praying together in the mornings takes precedent over fixing their breakfast.
Because our relationship with eachother and the Lord is most important and hungry tummies can wait a few minutes.
In Tutus 2, older women are instructed to teach the younger women to "love their husbands". This is first in a list of guidelines for Godly living as a wife and mother and homemaker. I dont do it perfectly. Its an exercise to train my children difference and to prioritize accurately sometimes.
Its the classroom God has me in.