Lots of people ask me if I’ve always wanted five children. I really don’t mind answering that question. I actually enjoy it, for the question amuses me.
The answer is no. Never in a million years would I have chosen to have five children. Nor would I ever have thought that I of all people would be a mother of FOUR boys. I didn’t even like being around boys when I was really young. I grew up with only sisters. I was much too calm, too organized and I liked all things girly. I also liked being alone, playing or reading quietly. I remember being appalled at the boys I did come in contact with who would burp or fart loudly and then obnoxiously laugh. These such people I avoided at all costs.
The question on the heels of that answer is, “So why in the world did you have five children?!?” Ha! Another good question. And there are actually two answers to that one.
First of all, I changed. I no longer look at life as something I can mold and manipulate to be what I desire. I discovered through many hardships, that some of the biggest challenges bring with them the biggest blessings. And when I try to control circumstances around me to fit what makes me feel safe, what provides me with stability, and what essentially is ‘my way’ often it doesn’t be turn out to be what I expected. So I became open to see what life would hand me, rather than what I could make it do for me.
Second of all, we were never the type to carefully family plan. We got pregnant when we got pregnant, simply because I was unable to go on birth control and we weren’t a fan of some of the other methods out there.
When I had my first two kids – a boy then a girl (exactly the genders I wanted and the order I wanted them in), I very seriously considered being done having kids. We had one of each, the million dollar family – or so it’s called. After all, there is a lot more you can do with just two kids. Hotels are set up for four. Cars easily fit a family of four. Two parents…two kids, each one takes a child and it’s SO much easier to have control. I could make sure that they get disciplined every time, that I can always be there to comfort them if they get hurt, that we could afford to buy them all the things they need. Each child gets new clothing, no hand me downs.
And yet…I knew deep down that as much as this life may be the goal for other families (and it’s totally great to see families of four) that this is not what I really wanted. I enjoy big family gatherings, with lots of cousins. And I wanted someday to see my family come together at Christmas with lots of personalities and games. That’s what I grew up with! So I was torn between what I felt I could handle (two) and what I wanted deep down. My husband wanted four boys and so I humoured him that we would have kids until we had exactly that.
After we had our third, parenting as I knew it changed drastically and I became aware of who I really was. For some people this happens after one or two kids…for me it was three.
It’s SO easy to act like you have it all together when everything is good and under your control. It’s when hardships come that we are faced with who we really are. Not to say that my first two kids were perfect by any means…there were huge challenges there as well, but things changed. I couldn’t go out and feel safe with my kids anymore, I only had two hands – one to hold that five million pound car seat (praise God I’m done with those!!!) and another hand to hold the hand of my 18 month old daughter. My firstborn son, who was still two at the time, had to listen perfectly or he ran the very real risk of being in danger. If three kids woke up at the same time in the night, I could no longer give my husband a nudge to take one and I the other; we were now outnumbered and one kid had to learn to wait. And when I was nursing the newborn, my toddlers would fight!! Now what? My poor new baby never got to finish a meal!
I became frazzled, feeling like there was no peace, like there was never enough of me, like someone ALWAYS wanted SOMETHING from me and I just had nothing left to give. And it was no longer possible for me to dress them the way I wanted, to discipline them every single time, to spend the daily one on one time with them, to do my devotions, to make the fully balanced homemade meals, to have the spotless house, to get my workout in, to…well you get the idea. Suddenly I was forced to choose: What is really important?
And you know what? Slowly things in my life that at one time had seemed like necessities (nice clothes, staying in shape, clean house, perfectly obedient kids) now seemed less and less important. I began to ask myself, who do I want my kids to remember me as? A beautiful woman, who got sitter after sitter while I did my hair, nails, workout, tanning, etc? A woman who had the perfect, spotless house that they could barely play in without damaging? A woman with a strong career they could be proud of, that provided enough for name brand clothes and fancy vacations? The woman who constantly yelled at them because they were never good enough?
Or did I want them to remember me as simply ‘mom’? Who was there for them, in my bed, bible on my lap when they came in the morning for snuggles? Who wanted to spend time in the morning preparing my heart for the day, rather than my face? Who cleaned, but also knew when to stop cleaning to read a book, or build a Lego house?
I wanted to be a person who cared more about my children then the mess they were making. I wanted to spend time training them to help me with the housework, rather than hiring someone who would obviously do a much better job, even though it meant a house that felt disgusting to me at times. I wanted to be a mom who saw children as a lifelong blessing, not a temporary inconvenience.
Children ARE a blessing. They just are!
Yet why is there that content struggle in us, whether we admit it or not, to see children like a burden to carry or as a season to bear through? Why do we Mothers (and Fathers) constantly think to ourselves: When they just get a little bit older, or, once they’re done this stage, THEN I’ll enjoy them more? Why, when we look back to when they were smaller, do we all feel at least a slight twinge of regret knowing that deep down we wished some of the most precious years of their life away? I don’t want to live like that!
It was after my third child, that I came to embrace the struggle of motherhood with all that I am. And how appropriate that Jonas’ name means “a gift from God” for this is exactly what he is, he was a gift that made me realize that struggle is not something to be avoided at all costs. For in the day-to-day struggle, in those difficult stages, memories are being made, characters are being formed and I am growing more and more into who God wants me to be. And some days (ok LOTS of days) I still see that old girl, the selfish me, who wants the quiet house, the clean house, who wants order and control, who would rather finish my doing my hair before church then clean up the box of Cheerios that was just dumped all over the floor, who would rather finish this blog post then be interrupted yet again by another fight to solve…but that’s not who God wants me to be.
Because in the struggle He’s answering those prayers I’ve been praying all these years: he’s making me more patient and less selfish. He’s teaching me to gently guide my children rather than to harshly require right behaviour. I’m becoming less independent and relying on him more. I’m becoming a servant, rather than a boss. I’m becoming like Jesus.
And then I look at the neat little life I would’ve planned out for myself and I go ‘Ha! I’m glad God ruined my plans!’