I’ve spent more time than I care to admit with fellow millennial parents extolling the virtues of the Disney+ show Bluey. The plots are sweet, the characters are polite, and the interactions between the Heeler family members are relatable. In many ways, it’s a show for parents even more than kids, offering creative ideas for playing together, communication skills, and gentle parenting tools.
On a recent occasion, I was bombarded by two of my kids, who begged me to come and watch an episode with them. I was in the middle of dishes, so I initially told them “no,” which incited further pleading, so I gave in. Annoyed, I sat down with them to watch “Rain,” (Season 3, episode 18) for the first time. I was totally unprepared to get emotional watching a children’s show on a Tuesday afternoon, and even less so for the episode to confirm something that the Lord had been working out in my prayer.
In “Rain,” a summer storm delights Bluey as she tries to dam up the water pooling on the sidewalk in front of her home. She experiments with a few outdoor items first, but realizes she needs different materials. She gleefully runs in and out of the house for towels and various toys, tracking in mud, leaves, and water each time. Bluey’s mom is exasperated as she continues to clean up Bluey’s messes, which interrupt her own tasks and a few moments’ peace. Giving up, she collapses onto her porch chair to reluctantly supervise Bluey, and is caught up in the beauty of her daughter’s wonder. She leaves the porch and joins her to play in the rain, helping Bluey’s dam finally reach all the way across their sidewalk.
As we finished the episode, my kids were confused about why I was a blubbering, weepy mess (to be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve cried at a Bluey episode – see Sleepytime, Season 2, episode 26). I was jarred by how clearly this show revealed my own motherhood, my own distraction from the beauty and wonder and curiosity of my children, and my tendency to be singularly focused on the tasks before me. Throughout the month prior to this moment, the word that the Lord continued to give me in prayer was inefficient. He kept asking me, over and over again, to be inefficient. And as someone who is extremely attached to routine, thinking ahead, and making sure things run smoothly, I was confused and annoyed for some time. Lord, are you asking me to be messy? To be disorganized? To self-sabotage?
It isn’t lost on me that it took my children pulling me away from a task to watch an episode of a children’s program for Jesus to finally get through to me. As I watched, I finally saw what He was asking: He wants me to choose presence over efficiency. I transitioned to becoming a stay-at-home-mom in April of 2022, and I think I fell into turning our home into a business in my mind: I do “A,” my husband does “B,” the children do “C,” and A+B+C= balanced books, productive meetings, and a positive office culture. And that’s just not how family life works! Jesus isn’t the CEO of my home, I’m not a manager, and my children are not customers. Our love for one another is not transactional – you give me this, I give you that in return – but transformational. In living together and loving one another in all of our faults, failings, messiness, badgering, and inefficiencies, we make one another holier. We learn patience, self-sacrifice, long suffering, vulnerability, and how to share life’s joys and sorrows. When we choose presence in our families, we are choosing to listen well (not just wait for them to finish), to suffer with them (even when it’s just a scrape), and no matter what, to wonder at the mystery of who God has uniquely made them to be.
So, in 2023, I’m committed to being way less efficient. I want to, as Pope Francis says, “Waste time with… children so they can realize that love is always free.” Sometimes I’ll still have to do dishes, and sometimes they’ll have to wait, but more often than not… I need to go play in the rain.