I had no idea what I was getting into when I had kids. I knew all the answers, of course, and my kids would be little angels. I’d never let them eat in the car, they would eat their fruits and vegetables, they would get along with each other, and they would listen right away when disciplined. My rosy vision of life with children was a far cry from my reality now. All of my expectations above fell short. My kids do eat in the car, they don’t always eat their fruits and veggies, they fight with each other, and they sure don’t listen right away when I have to discipline them. Not only that, but along the way I find myself in situations I never would have imagined before my children were born. These things range from the humorous to the absurd to the poignant. Let me give a few examples of what I mean…
Before I had kids…
- I figured it would be a challenge to get everyone out the door in time for church, but I never would have foreseen going to church in pants because I only shaved one leg after my baby made it past the barricade I erected for her in the bathroom and crawled into the walk-in shower with me.
- I knew I would be cleaning up after them, but it never occurred to me that within the span of five minutes my daughter and I would spill the same bowl of Cheerios three times.
- I guessed someday I’d play make-believe with them, but I never would have dreamed that I would be carrying on a conversation with three paper plate leprechauns named Seamus, Daniel, and Cliff as I made eggs for brunch.
- I wanted to play games with them, but I never thought I would sit on the sidelines and watch my five-year-old play Sorry with three imaginary friends.
- I figured they would do silly things, but I never imagined one of my children would stand on the street corner begging for money with a handwritten sign that said “We are pore,” even as he stood there in a full Sunday suit.
- I knew they would break things, but I never imagined they would stuff rocks down our clean out line, backing up our sewer in the winter when the ground was frozen, requiring the whole thing to be dug out at great cost.
- I was fully prepared to kiss their boo-boos, but I never knew how heart-rending it would be for me when one of them had an emotional scar I wouldn’t be able to kiss away.
There’s no doubt about it, parenthood changes a person. There are days when bedtime can’t come fast enough. There are days when I want to give up. There are days when my kids are cranky and whiny. There are days when I am cranky and whiny. It’s tough, often grueling work, raising kids, and many of us second-guess ourselves far too often. Am I doing this right? we ask ourselves. Should I be doing more with my kids? Less? How many activities should I let them do at one time? I should have handled that differently… The doubts assail, sometimes overwhelm, us. But just as there are days that seem to overwhelm you, there are also moments that stand out gloriously, among the ordinary (or not-so-ordinary!) moments of everyday motherhood. God Moments, I call them, and they often come when I’m least expecting them but most needing them.
Before I had kids…
- I knew I would teach them about Jesus, but nothing prepared me for the emotions I experienced when my baby first pointed to a cross on her own and said, “Jesus!”
- I knew I would sing hymns to them, but I never dreamed my five-year old would be singing along with the CD in the car at the top of her lungs, “Holy Spirit, the unction of blessing, Sacred oil of the green olive tree…”
- I envisioned teaching them the Ten Commandments, but I didn’t foresee how literal they would be. When talking about our former parish once, I said about the pastor, “Oh, I love that man!” to which my shocked second-grader said, “You’re committing adultery!”
- I hoped and prayed that our home would be one where we spoke naturally about our faith, but I couldn’t hold back the tears when I overheard my then eight-year-old hold up a baby Jesus figurine from the nativity scene and say to his six-month old sister, “Do you know who this is? That’s your Savior!”
- I knew we would pray together as a family, but I never realized how mature my children would be about their prayers at times, even asking me on bad days if they could pray for me.
There’s a collect I hear every so often in church that has always intrigued me. It asks God to allow parents to “see in their children the treasures You have buried there.” What does that imply? That children’s talents and abilities are hidden? Well, honestly, that’s often true. I don’t look at my kids every day and see great potential. When I’m trying desperately to get supper ready and my boys are fighting, my preschooler is whining, and my baby is tugging at my pants to be picked up, quite honestly I’m not thanking God for the hidden treasures in my children. But those treasures are there. Not just talents they will later develop, like music or art or sports, but attitudes and personalities such as those from my second list above. God Moments give us glimpses of those spiritual treasures God has planted in our children through their baptisms. I am often humbled by my children. I learn lessons from them nearly every day. They teach me about forgiveness, love, faith like a child, and so much more.
There’s no doubt about it, my children have changed my life, in ways beyond scheduling and eating and playing. They give me a compelling reason to live out my faith. They are observing and picking up on far more than the words I teach them. It’s a daunting task, but we don’t have to go it alone, parents. Just as our kids need a Savior, so do we. And He is with us every step of the way, forgiving our mistakes, granting us strength and wisdom, and encouraging us through His Word. He does it for our children and He does it for us. We are all forgiven and redeemed children of the same heavenly Father. Of course we had no idea what we were getting into before we had kids. But we do know that God, the perfect parent, is on our side. Keep your eyes open, because you just never know when your heavenly Father will allow you a glimpse of the treasures He has buried in your precious children.