I only have three children, but some days it seems like I have twice that.
Littlest is now a mobile mess, as in I no longer have a contained mess in one spot. Instead, I have jello boxes and potatoes in my laundry bins. I have spices, cans of soup, and tupperware all over the kitchen floor. I have unused diapers and burp cloths under the table and in the living room floor. And I have a trash can full of his toys (he is currently enthralled with throwing his toys in the school room trash can). It doesn’t take him long to accomplish all of this either, several times throughout a day.
And that’s just his mess, by the way. My other two also leave their signs of life around the house.
Then, there’s the noise. With our hard wood floors, all the sounds of childhood are amplified in surround sound—laughter, crying, fighting, and the vast repertoire of miscellaneous mouth noises that my six year old has mastered. Not to mention that my four year old is our family stenographer. She repeats for me every detail of every conversation and incident, even after I’ve already participated in the event first-hand. And Littlest shows lots of promise in this department as well, carrying on extensive conversations of baby-babble with real words sprinkled throughout.
I love my children. I love the joy and exuberance that come bounding into my day each morning. But sometimes, I’m guilty of wanting my children to behave more like adults.
Sometimes, I’m guilty of wanting them to be more like me and less like themselves. There are times when I don’t appreciate the fact that God has chosen to create my children to act, most of the time, like children.
You see, in the midst of this process of mothering, I’ve been commissioned to reveal to my children the love of their Heavenly Father, a love that is unconditional. He loved me while I was still a sinner, commending His love toward me while I was yet His enemy (Romans 5). But then, He didn’t leave me in that sinful state. His unconditional love did not dictate that I never change. Rather, His unconditional love worked out a plan of transformation that was entirely His work of grace.
In the same vein, I have a multi-faceted job as a parent. On the one hand, I’m not to allow my children to remain in their childish state indefinitely. And yet, I am to balance my expectations with an unconditional love that allows them, at this time, to be what God has created them to be—children.
We would never expect a monkey to act like a butterfly or a buffalo to behave like a mouse. Why then is it so hard for us to trust God with the design of our children and allow them to be who God made them to be? He created them all differently, and each one reflects this design uniquely. By accepting each child as he or she is, we are not only affirming the excellence of God’s perfect design in the lives of our children but helping them to grow in the knowledge of their heavenly Father’s perfect love. ~Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood (p. 131)
But practically, what does this unconditional love look like?
For me right now, it means I take the time to listen to my child who loves to talk; I take the time to watch my child who loves an audience; and I make the sacrifice to clean up after the child who loves to discover and explore. It means that I choose to love them in a way that speaks uniquely to each of them, not necessarily in the way I would prefer to love them. Yes, it’s often inconvenient and not on my time-table. Yes, it’s a sacrifice and means one more thing packed into a busy day. Yes, it’s not always preferable and not always easy.
It definitely means less of me and more of Him. But isn’t that what I want for my children, anyway?