Over Spring Break, my husband and I took our three boys to the zoo, where we happily chased peacocks around and marveled at the length of the giraffes' tongues as we fed them from paper cups. We also happened by the otters' cage just as a zookeeper was preparing to feed them. Holding a bucket of fish just out of reach of the otters, she removed one to a side room, began feeding the three left, and explained, "These are three male otters. They beg and eat as if they are starving, but they aren't. Notice that as soon as they get their fish, they retreat to a private area to protect their food from getting snatched by their brothers."
Sure enough, as they were each given a fish, they ran to separate corners and promptly masticated their food, smacking loudly, pieces of fish flying, eyes darting around. The zookeeper continued, "We have to remove the mom otter for a private feeding, otherwise her sons would take all the food." And I'm sure, I thought to myself, all her sanity as well.
Somehow this all seemed vaguely familiar. With three growing boys, I have an ever-increasing grocery bill, and my name to them is not "Mom," but rather, "Mom, can I have something to eat?" After dinner, there is typically a requested second round of dinner followed by a denied request for a third round of dinner and subsequent claims of starvation. Rather than a zookeeper doling out fish, I'm more like a lion-tamer in the ring, constantly fending off hungry tummies.
Where Our Needs Point
At the zoo that day, I was a bit jealous of the mom otter, removed from fish-smackers for a peaceful meal.
It's difficult sometimes for me to understand my boys' level of need for food. When the kitchen's cleaned and closed for the evening, their constant demands can be frustrating. But in the end, I am their mother, and although I don't fully understand their needs, I want to meet them, because I love my sons.
The fact of the matter is that I am no different from my sons. My needs are just as compulsive — for acceptance, for love, for purpose, for rest, for help — but I have lost the childlike instinct to simply ask my Father for my needs to be met by him. When my sons have a need, they immediately come to me. When I have a need, I veer toward shame, frustration, and guilt.