Originally posted 7 years ago and written sometime before that…still a good reminder, to myself. Although my children are much older now, I still need to be reminded of this greater reality…
File under: Things you were not told about parenting. Children and privacy. I never thought and was never told that children would completely change notions of privacy. Essentially it becomes non-existent, especially during waking hours. It is not an unusual occurrence to have our whole family, including the cat, in our tiny bathroom. I suppose I should be encouraged that my children want to be in my presence, but everywhere, all the time? No one told me…there actually are quite a few things that I was not prepared for when it comes to being a parent (e.g. infants and toddlers do not observe daylight savings time; they wake up regardless of what the clock says). Of course nothing prepares you for being a parent like being a parent. Experience is a strong and unrelenting teacher.
All of this can be overwhelming, but I think it leads to a larger question. Are our difficulties with our children rooted in a misunderstanding of who is for whom? That is, are we meant for our children, or are our children meant for us. Often times our behavior and our attitude would point to us thinking that children are really meant for us. This may take several forms of course: children may exist to fill an emotional need, to entertain us, to allow us a second chance at life or sports or school or whatever we lacked or failed at, or even just to stay quiet and out of the way. Even in Hollywood, babies seem to be the new celebrity status symbol. It is not wrong to want children, it is wrong to want them for the wrong reasons. And it is wrong to treat them as objects or possessions when they are present.
Read the words of Walter Wangerin, Jr. in the introduction of his book Little Lamb who made thee? : A book about Children and Parents on this point:
Children do not exist to please us. They are not for us at all. Rather, we exist for them – to protect them now and to prepare them for the future. Who is given unto whom? Are we a gift to their elders? No – not till children are grown and their elders are older indeed. Then they are a gift of the fourth commandment, honoring hoary head which have begun to feel past honor. But until then, it is we who are given, by God’s parental mercy, to the children! And it is we who must give to the children – by lovely laughter, by laughter utterly free, and by the sheer joy from which such laughter springs – the lasting memory: You are, you are, you are, my child, a marvelous work of God!
I am both surprised at times at the depth of my love for my children, but at other times I am surprised at the depth of desire for my own comfort. I really shouldn’t be surprised at either I suppose, as one reflects the Father’s work in my life and the other that remaining sin and idolatry within my own heart. At times I have my priorities straight, at others I have them reversed. The prayer then has to be, that the Lord would help us to understand those times when we act as if our children should be doing something for us or even when may resent their presence and that He would change our hearts to reflect Wangerin’s statement above.
It seems to me that the blessing of being a grandparent is the ability to know without reservation, who is for who? Most grandparents know, intrinsically, that they exist for their grandchildren and therefore delight in the opportunities to observe, include, be barged in on, etc…by their grandchildren. The negative of this may lie in the tendency of grandparents to spoil their children – this goes to far to another other extreme. That said, you have to love the unabashed love that most grandparents are willing show towards their grandchildren.
Another thing that changes when you become a parent is the way that you react to the sufferings of children, especially those who are of the same age as our children. Our heartstrings can really be pulled when we see an infant or toddler suffering from ill health or from sins perpetrated upon them. A newspaper article from the Raleigh based News & Observer does this to me with an article on May 9th, 2004 (“Mom grows with Grant”, written by Vicki Cheng). Jamie Howard was living the life she always wanted to live, but that changed with the birth of her second child. A few months into Grant’s life, it became clear that something wasn’t right. It was later discovered that Grant suffered a stroke in utero, which has had a profound affect on his mental and physical development. What struck me the most in the article, more than hardship of little Grant, were the words of his parents, maybe because I relate to their position as parents. Matt Howard said: “The purpose of his life could be to change us. God chose us to be his parents.” And Jamie wrote in a letter to Grant: “You remind me to live for the day, and stop worrying about the future. I wish that my love could heal you…There has never been a moment in your short life when I doubted your were meant to be my son. Thank you for being patient with me, as I learn to be your mother.” Those words bring tears to my eyes every time I read them. I pray for you and for me that it would not take a tragedy or health difficulty for us to get our priorities straight – for us to recognize that we were meant for our children.