Last weekend was such a joy, having all of our kids together for first time in a year! Our daughter Bailey missed her family and so came 4,000 miles from Maui just to visit. Aaron, who was finishing up his freshman year at Spring Arbor University, had the weekend to savor with us and only 86 miles to travel. Lots of ear-to-ear grins for all.
I remember playing house when I was a little girl, dreaming of being a mother one day, naming my make-believe children. Do you remember using the origami fortune teller in grade school? Did boys even do that, and if so, what were they guessing about?! I remember the choices on these paper prognosticators included number and gender of children I would someday bear.
Sometime in my late teens, I decided that an egalitarian household would be ideal. My husband and I would share all the duties, childcare to autocare. And then I got pregnant. To this day, I've never changed the oil or tires on a vehicle. Kudos to those women who can and do.
All those maternal hormones coursing my veins quickly changed 20-something me, shifting my desires towards motherhood and parenting. Whereas I had once envisioned juggling career and family, before the midway point of my first pregnancy I told my employer that I wouldn't be returning after the birth.
I have the great luxury of being married to a man who was able to financially support our growing family and supported the value of me caring for our children full-time. I know this isn't always the case. And, I have family and friends who have had the choice, but prefer to work outside the home. When they've been tasked with full-time childcare, they don't feel well-suited.
Though I've only known a few, stay-at-home dads are quite cool. My dad was a fire fighter, and was full-time caregiver to preschool kids on his days off. My husband has been a teacher for the last two decades, and so summers and breaks have been great with Dad around. Blessed is the child with an available and engaged dad.
I love how our Creator has imbued each gender with such magnificent biological abilities and emotional bents. Though I understood these differences much better after dating a couple guys and taking a college psychology class, my true appreciation came as a young mother to girls and boys.
Seeing our three-year-old daughter hold her newborn brother and then, at age nine, become the first to greet her home-born sister, I am certain that girls are--in general--naturally geared to be more nurturing. And despite my naive efforts to steer our young boys away from toy gun play, three-year-old Jacob revealed the depth of that desire by proudly displaying his toast to me one morning at the breakfast table, chewed ever-so-precisely into the shape of a pistol.
Clearly there are differing levels of stereotypical gender behavior, but I can say with the utmost confidence that our daughters never held play guns with the same gusto as they held baby dolls--or real babies. All of them loved to run around and explore, but the boys never quite made a mudpie as detail-oriented and scrumptious-looking as the girls.
I love our differences, how incredibly good and beautiful we are, as male and female. Instead of trying to erase or overcome those differences, I now embrace them, seeing how--because of our unique qualities-- together we are so much better. As God said, we are "very good".
I'm so grateful for the years I was able to work full-time at home, raising our children. It was a serious investment, that I took really seriously. As my children recall, I may have been too serious too often, when maybe I should have been more silly.
When I was silly, I took my kids off guard, maybe even scaring them a bit...duck lips made with Pringles anyone? Or how about carrot stick fangs? And then there was that time I played hide-and-seek and didn't come out until the older two were crying. I think I was crying in my hiding place that time. Maybe they don't remember that?
Mothering is so awesome, and so intense. It is paramount to be gentle, with your children and yourself. I expected a lot, of myself and them. Home educating for years added a whole new dimension to my responsibilities, one that upped the ante, so to speak. A lot more seemed to be riding on how I handled things. I could have used a bigger measure of grace, with them and myself.
My best memories don't involve textbooks or chalkboards, they include times all together, reciting scripture and poetry, singing hymns and reading good books out loud (all five of us bawling our eyes out at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows), delivering Meals on Wheels and visiting sick friends in nursing homes to cheer them. I relished watching them laugh together and learn from each other, while I quietly observed.
Though I never considered myself a great teacher, I think I got the most important things right: earnestly desiring and trying to model best how to love and forgive, instructing in wisdom and the immense value of our redemption. Academics were important, but spiritual training and life skills topped the priorities.
Thank the LORD for his mercy, grace and the beautiful children he has given us to raise. There are myriad waiting for a good home right now. Prayerfully consider becoming a forever family for one or more of them. If you haven't heard of MARE, check it out.
My heart aches when I think of all the children who have missed out on this incredible life. I am sad for the children who are born and haven't heard, been taught and/or experienced THE GOOD NEWS, those who don't have clean water and/or good food or have hurtful, neglectful or absent parents.
If these things make you sad too, what are you doing about it? Are you a champion for the voiceless? A promoter of GOODNESS? A provider of essentials? A protector for the vulnerable?
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
TODAY is the day! Be a force for good. Speak and act for truth and justice whenever you can. Be sure to click on the links in the "OPPORTUNITY" paragraph above.