On Monday afternoon a royal baby was born, and it seems the world is celebrating the arrival of this boy, the third in line to the British monarchy. I must confess that I’m as captivated as the next person, eagerly anticipating the announcement of his official name, wondering if Kate and William will take him to the countryside mansion of his maternal grandparents as has been speculated in the media frenzy, envisioning the grandeur of the congratulatory gifts which must be arriving at the palace from the four corners of the globe.
Ten years ago today a little gray-eyed girl entered this world. She is youngest of my five children. As we have prepared to celebrate the anniversary of her birth, I’ve paused to remember the long days that have so quickly flown by, as if I closed my eyes for just a moment and like Rip Van Winkle awoke to a world in the future. How is is that all of my children have reached double digit ages, my oldest just three years away from earning the right to vote?
Even though my baby isn’t a baby anymore, I still don’t feel like I have this parenting thing down. I wonder how much longer I’ll continue to feel like I’m just muddling through the days, trying to get everyone on a schedule, though we’ve definitely moved from adjusting feeding and nap times of infancy into revolving my days around chauffeuring my teens and tweens to various activities all over our city. I’ve never quite grown use to the sleepless nights, whether I’m roused by a hungry baby, a crying toddler, a sick child or unable to sleep from worrying over a teen-age issue. And of course, a decade later, I’m still working to lose the last of the baby weight. (I have a feeling Kate won’t struggle with that nearly as much as I have though.)
As I’ve reminisced about my own adventures in motherhood and watched for news of Kate’s first few days with her own newborn, I’ve been reminded of all the things I’ve learned over the years about children and motherhood. Normally, I’m hesitant to sharing any sort of parenting thoughts because as soon as I do I have a feeling that my children will prove me wrong. However, in honor of Kate’s new boy and my 10 year old girl, I’m making an exception … which I might regret tomorrow, though hopefully I won’t.
Ten Things My Children Have Taught Me
- Tickling someone who is already mad usually does not help the situation. However, well-timed bathroom humor will almost always bring about giggles.
- Sleeping habits of tweens and teens are strangely similar to those of a newborn baby. When you are ready for bed, they suddenly come to life. And when it’s time for the rest of the world to wake up, they are out cold.
- If you want your child to tell you what’s really on their mind, take a bathroom break, or make an important phone call. Other prime talking times are weeknights after 10 pm, during the middle of your favorite TV program, or on long car rides after dark.
- There is no such thing as a childproof home. And when you hide the Christmas presents, the only person unable to find them is the one who hid them in the first place.
- There will come a day when your child’s idea of fashion will cause you great embarrassment in public places. There will also come a day when your child will no longer let you show any signs of affection outside of your home. Apparently this is when you have become an embarrassment to your child. Both of these situations are painful to experience.
- Some of the world’s greatest mysteries are only understood by children. Some examples are: Why red is the preferred color for balloons and popsicles, how to tell who got the bigger slice of cake when the difference is practically imperceptible to the adult human eye, why siblings will fight over one particular toy even when each child got the same exact one in their own Happy Meal, and why the wrapping of a gift is always more fun to play with than whatever was wrapped inside.
- Love is not a feeling. Love better be an action because there are plenty of mothering moments when I’m just not feeling the love. Since when did any mother feel like cleaning up puke at 2 a.m.?
- God’s got a word for mothers no matter what the situation. Check out 1 Corinthians 15:51 which is perfect for mothers of newborns: “Behold! I will tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” And for those of us with children learning how to drive, we can read 2 Kings 9:20 which says: “The driving is like that of Jehu, son of Nimshi — he drives like a madman!” (If this doesn’t convince you that the Bible is always relevant to your life, then I don’t know what will!)
- Invest in a pair of high-quality knee pads. There is nothing like parenting to teach a person all about praying without ceasing. I thought I prayed a lot when my children were infants, but now that I’ve got a house full of teens and tweens I’m realizing that was just the warm-up session.
- Days are longer than years, at least when it comes to raising children. I’ve lived days that lasted practically an eternity. Yet the past decade flew by so quickly it seemed as though I barely had time to turn around.
In spite of all the overwhelming chaos, baffling mysteries and exasperations that comes from raising kids, most mothers (myself included) admit our lives are enriched because of our children. I suppose this is because being a mother is about more than just raising a child to adulthood.
Mothering is about learning to love unconditionally, the way God loves us. It’s a call to duty, taking on a job for which I feel unprepared, and along the way finding I possess an inner courage I never knew was there. It’s about learning to give the process of child rearing all I’ve got, and then when I think I’ve got nothing left to give, discovering it was never about me in the first place. Rather it was always God in me, working through me, covering the multitude of messes I’ve made with His perfect grace.
With each child, my faith has increased. With each child, my understanding of God has grown. And even though I often feel like there is less of me, as if I’ve somehow lost who I was somewhere between rocking a baby and teenagers, I know there is more of God in me than there ever was before I became someone’s mother.
Perhaps this is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote “children are a gift from the Lord.” Perhaps the blessing of children isn’t actually the children themselves. Perhaps the blessing of children is that by raising them we get more of God in us.
I suppose Kate is just like any other new mother … completely enchanted with her newborn son, gazing at his sleeping face, allowing him to grasp her finger in his tiny hand. If she is like me, even changing those first few diapers is somehow strangely sweet and precious in a way I’m quite sure only a new mother can truly appreciate. I hope Kate loves being a mother. I hope her son brings her joy beyond her wildest dreams.
But mostly, I hope that Kate will find more of God as her faith grows from the biggest challenge life has to offer.