Recently, I read an article about a growing trend among mothers: they regret ever having children. It’s not that these mothers are sad or overwhelmed from time to time because of the commitment it takes to raise children, nor are they simply fearful because of the responsibility. No, these particular mothers mourn having their already birthed children. They feel trapped. They hate it with everything within them. Their children aren’t seen only as a burden and interruption from life, their children are a mistake. Most of us, thankfully, aren’t where these mothers are, I’d imagine for many of us we fall somewhere in between worshipping our children and thinking they are the center of our lives and desiring more free time and rest for ourselves. We can empathize with the women in the article in regards to those moments of feeling overwhelmed, but most of us aren’t likely mourning our children. But, what if I said that our children are for our joy? Could we accept that? Do we believe that?
I remember a time I dropped my son off at his school and yelled my usual through the rolled down window, “I love you. Make good choices. Obey your teacher.” As I began to roll up the window and drive away, my little first grader took his small hand to his mouth and blew me a kiss.
It was like everything stopped at that moment.
I realized how quickly this season would pass. Would he blow me a kiss when he’s 16 years old? I don’t know. I blew him a kiss back and he waved to me, mouthing the words “Bye, Mom.” I was overwhelmed. I wished I could freeze that point in time.
I like to call my children sweet ragamuffins. Motherhood is challenging. My kids don’t obey me every time I ask them to do something. They are rambunctious, loud, and messy. And they are also sweet. They are gifts. Like many moms, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything. What I think we can so often forget, though, is that motherhood isn’t a task to be checked off like the laundry. It is a calling.
Maybe the word “calling” makes you want to run and hide. For many, “calling” can sound as if motherhood is your only identity, that it’s all encompassing and you will never get a break from your endless responsibilities. This is not true. You are likely called to be a wife and church member and friend as well (and the list could go on). So motherhood is not your only identity; it is, however, a part of your identity. And there is a weight to that. Mothers are more than just mothers, but we are never less. God’s word instructs us to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I can’t think of a greater challenge given to us as parents. As one who is in the throes of raising and teaching young children, I am regularly reminded of my desperate need for Jesus.
Gifts to Enjoy
But I don’t think remembering the responsibility that we have to train our children is the best way we embrace and savor the short days we have with them. Remember that, “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Our children are not tasks to complete, but gifts to enjoy. And we enjoy them by remembering that they are truly gifts from God. Yes, even when they stand in the hall refusing to put away their socks, or when they throw their cereal on the floor, or when they make it almost impossible to complete a trip to the grocery store. Those are trials mothers and fathers face weekly and yes, even these things are gifts.
Paul, instructing Timothy to challenge the rich to put their hope in God instead of their wealth, reminds us that it is God who provides all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Our children aren’t meant to be checked off a list, they are to be delighted in. And as with every gift we receive and enjoy, we must be careful not to idolize our children. Only God should be worshipped. But what if we began to think of our kids as true gifts from God aimed at our enjoyment? Both in enjoyment of our kids and in God at work through them.
A Call to Treasure
It might seem like a funny connection, but I think of how much I enjoy looking at colorful birds at the zoo. They are exotic creatures, each with their unique beaks and a beautiful mosaic of feathers. The birds are a wonder of God’s creation, and he cares for them. But not more than he cares for us: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
In a similar way, I can think of many things I enjoy, but I value my kids more. I love looking into my kids’ precious eyes. I want to get into the world of their God-given personalities and take in their laughs and answer their questions. I want to enjoy them.
Maybe that’s precisely what the main thing of this parenting calling is all about. Maybe it’s not as much a call to train your kids as it is a call to train and treasure them.
Our children won’t be our little children forever. So, let’s enjoy and savor these days that God has given us. Our kids are his gifts to us, glimmers of his goodness, which leads us to say with C.S. Lewis, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary sparkles are like this!”