"Enough!" -- When They Don't Want Your Caregiving

I've been the parent who bathes our young children.  It started 16 years ago with our son.  The theory was that my wife got "bonding time" when the kids needed to be fed---I could handle bonding with them as they had a bath.  And it's a job I've enjoyed--particularly since a lot of it involves playing with children's bath toys.

My youngest twins are getting older now.  They're FOUR already.  And my role at bath time now is mostly washing their hair and making sure they play nice in the tub.  But, it's still my job.  And I don't mind it at all.  After all, there are still children's toys to be played with and squirted and thrown around and bubbles to be made.

Well, last week on one of our bath nights we had a little problem.  The "problem" wasn't how they were playing with each other or the water temperature or soap in the eyes.  The "problem" was that Bethany's "duckie scrubby" started to unravel.  Bethany has the duck.  Abigail has the frog.  They've had them for a while.  But when Bethany started to use her ducky, it just started falling apart.  You can see in the picture to the right that it started coming undone.  And, since the scrubby started falling apart, Bethany started falling apart.  She became rather upset.  She was, I assume, pretty attached to it and it was clear that it wasn't going to last long.   She cried...and cried...and cried ...............  and cried.

I got her out of the tub when she was all clean and wrapped the towel around her.  She said she wanted to go on downstairs and tell Mommy about the duck. But, being the fabulous father that I am, I wanted to comfort her a little.  So I gave her a big hug and held her.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be Super Dad around here.  Anyone who really knows me can tell that's not the case.  But my littlest little girl was upset and I wanted to comfort her.  I really was sorry that she was so sad.  So I held on.  I was her caregiver.  She needed my care.

Or...did she?

After just a couple of seconds of my fatherly embrace, Bethany said, more curtly than I would have cared to hear, "Enough."  It was short and to the point.  She didn't want the care I was giving her.  She wanted to head on down to Mommy.  Perhaps the need for a little love from dad wasn't needed.  At least it wasn't wanted.

I laughed at the comment from my four year-old.  She really had no need for what I was offering at that moment, no matter how much I thought she did.


Sometimes in the local church I can fall into a "Super Pastor" mode where I'm pretty sure that there are people out there who need my care.  Perhaps I think they need me at their side at the hospital.  Perhaps I'm sure they need me to step in and heal their marriage.  Maybe I'm convinced they need words of wisdom and comfort over the death of a loved one.  Sometimes I'm sure I see problems which cry out for pastoral attention.  They need a some pastoring.

But sometimes they don't NEED my care.  Sometimes they don't WANT it.  Sometimes (God forbid!) they are getting the care they need somewhere else.

It can be tough to hear the folks you feel called to lead and love and care for tell you "Enough" -- either with their words or their body language or by not reaching out to you when you are pretty sure they should be doing so.

Part of maturity as a pastor is discerning when those times are when they're saying "Enough!"  While it's great to be needed.  It's good to know when you're not.