If you are a mother, remember the first time you held your very own child? You were so overjoyed and excited to finally meet the little one you had waited so long to meet! Whether he grew inside you for nine months or whether you went through the seemingly endless process of paperwork and the roller coaster of adoption, you felt that your dream had finally come true.
If only we could recapture that feeling. Bottle it up and pour it out into our cup of joy when our newborn refuses to sleep at 1 AM. Or our toddler insists upon emptying the flour all over the living room carpet. And when our teenager delivers a sarcastic tirade before slamming the door behind him.
Instead, we often let the joy sit and it grows cold or acquires a bitter taste like coffee that is brewed and forgotten. We begin to blame our children and in the deep recesses of our soul, we sometimes resent them. We see them as roadblocks to our dreams and inconveniences to the life we envision.
Oh, but God does not see children as a problem! He always calls them a blessing. A gift.
Jesus exalted children in His ministry when His disciples tried to shoo them away as bothersome inconveniences. He turned to those around Him and overturned their thinking as He later would the tables in the Temple.
The child is the one we are to emulate, not ignore, He said. We are to embrace childhood, not lament it. Instead of pushing them away, we are to draw close and learn from them.
Sally Clarkson says in the book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe:
“God gave me these children, so that I could grow up and become all that He had designed me to be.”
Our kids are not the problem. Contrary to popular belief, you can get a shower, sit down and eat a meal, save money, go to the store, read books, and live life beautifully with children. They are not what is getting in the way of all we think we want in life. Our attitudes are.
When we look at them as hindrances, that attitude hinders us from our best life. When we treat them as annoyances, that annoyance will steal our joy. When we push them away, we are pushing away some of the greatest blessings God has given us.
Let me be clear. I am not saying if you don’t have children of your own, you are being selfish or having a wrong attitude. Many women have not been blessed with children themselves but fully invest themselves in the lives of children around them. They are perhaps more in line with Jesus’ injunction to “Let the children come” than many of us mothers are.
Some women long for children. They wait long years for them or they never become parents at all. Yet, we who have been given so much, fail to see the blessing of these little ones entrusted to us.
Is it always easy to see our children this way? No. Some days are hard. Some days you would rather not get out of bed. Some nights are long and restless. Cold and flu season can become a nightmare.
With the blessing of children comes the inevitable messes, tantrums, and drama. In other words, responsibility. Like Sally Clarkson, maybe it’s time for us to grow up and grow into the women God has called us to be. Maybe that’s why He gave them to us in the first place.
Can I just encourage you to look at your little ones differently? Or the big ones that are driving you crazy? Or maybe just encourage myself.
I’m still learning how to change my perspective and my attitude. It’s a process. I have not arrived. But, here are a few things that I have tried when I am tempted to resent the little (and not-so-little) people underfoot:
1. Delight them.
Life is so much more pleasant when it is couched in beauty and viewed as something special to look forward to. Our children feel this way, too.
My daughter is an introvert like me. She needs some quiet space before greeting the day and the other five people that live in our home. One night before bed, I heard her mention that she was going to wake up early so she could have some time to read in the bathtub before she had to get ready for school.
About ten minutes before her alarm went off, I filled a tea pot with boiled water and put together a little tea tray for one. I lit candles in the bathroom and put on some soft music. When she got up and stumbled into the bathroom, she found it all ready for her morning bath with a few extra surprises.
Those few minutes I took to delight her were well worth the investment when I saw her smile and felt her more peaceful attitude through the day.
2. Embrace them.
I am not a nurturing person by nature. I do not naturally go around hugging people. However, I have a few children that thrive on physical affection. I have to purpose to intentionally give them hugs and back rubs and sometimes tousle their hair with a loving smile.
I also have to remind myself to tell them how proud I am of them, how much I enjoy being their mom and how much I love them. This is something I am working on, but every time I am intentional about showing affection, it pays off in a big way.
3. Include them.
When the to-do list is long, it is so easy to “send the kids off to play”. I am guilty of this at times. This practice is also convicting because when I follow it to its logical conclusion, I realize that they will not want to spend time with me later if I don’t spend time with them now.
One of my children loves being with me no matter what I am doing. He loves to help me cook and do laundry and sometimes sits and watches me as I work on my computer or exercise. His involvement usually makes whatever I am doing take longer.
However, it is so fun to watch how intently he “helps” and to hear his funny little quips as he does so. Again, with an eye to the future, if I don’t allow him to “help” now, he won’t be much help in the future when I really need his assistance.
4. Enjoy them.
If someone had told you as you first held that little bundle in your arms that you would have to be intentional about enjoying him, you would have thought, “Of course not! How can I help it? I mean, look how precious he is!”
Yet, the years and the tasks and the dailiness of life build up and crowd out that enjoyment so easily. One thing we’ve done recently to be intentional about enjoyment is to make a daily task more delightful.
Since I stay at home and homeschool, I prepare meals at least three times a day, not counting all the in-between “snacks”. We learned in school about the French and how they enjoy their meal times without rushing and pay attention to small details to make each meal a special experience.
Now, our schedule does not allow for hour-long meal times, but we do occasionally have what we dub “a French breakfast or lunch”. We serve whatever we are having in “courses” on fancy dishes. We light a candle, sit and talk a few minutes instead of inhaling some food hastily thrown onto paper plates. It may be as simple as bringing out the grapefruit before the scrambled egg before the piece of toast. However, it makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
The next time we are tempted to blame our children for our emotional or economic problems or as the reason we neglect hygiene and basic nutrition, let’s take an attitude check. Are we seeing them as God sees them? Are we letting them irritate us or refine us? Are we drawing them in and close or pushing them away?
Our kids are not the problem. They are God’s gift to us. Our treasuring of them is our gift back to Him.