Virtues: The Blessings of Loving My Children
This post originally ran on August 21, 2009. Please enjoy this series from my early blogging months.
Among my current reading list is Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney. This is part two of a discussion on the seven virtues of a Godly wife and mother she discusses in her book. I’ve decided to take one chapter a week and discuss each specific virtue.
The book centers on the virtues of Titus 2:3-5: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
The Blessings of Loving My Children
My husband is a computer consultant. Because we live in a small town in Kentucky whose largest business is a soda pop bottling plant, unless he’s working remotely from our living room couch, he’s traveling to “the big city” to do his job. Chicago, Orlando, Vancouver — metropolises compared to our little slice of heaven. A little over a year ago, he was working in Nashville.
While he was under that contract, I gave birth to our third child and our second son, Johnathan (Jeb). When Jeb was born, we had Kaylee, who was 11, and Scott, who wasn’t quite two yet. I have very very very bad pregnancies that more often than not end up in emergency c-sections and babies with long stays in the NICU, so I’m thankful my mother was able to come and be a mom to my kids for the end of my pregnancy and Jeb’s subsequent birth.
The day after Jeb’s release from NICU, Kaylee graduated from 5th grade and left for the summer with her birth father. Gregg left to go back to work, and my dad came to collect my mom, who had been at my house for about 6 weeks. It was just me and the boys. That night, I fell down the stairs and broke my tail bone.
My husband is also in the National Guard. When Jeb was five months old, Gregg’s contract in Nashville ended and the next day, he started a 6-month school in Ft. Gordon, Georgia. Kaylee had just started sixth grade and Scott had recently turned 2. I still had a broken tailbone.
Between a tweeny, hormonal, socially active girl, an insomniac 2-year-old who still woke up twice a night (a post for another day), a baby who still nursed every two hours, a husband who hadn’t been home since the middle of my pregnancy, and living in constant pain, there were twilight hours when I just wanted to throw in the towel. I was exhausted: physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I’m certain the only nights I slept more than an hour at a time were the nights when I was just simply too exhausted to hear either boy.
To make matters worse, I allowed myself no wiggle room at all. I had a strict cooking and cleaning and laundry regimen that I would not break. NO ONE knew how exhausted I was because I wasn’t willing to tell anyone.
I finally broke down one morning at 3AM. I was so tired and in so much pain and all I could think about was all of the details for Kaylee’s Halloween party and it all just overcame me. I shot my husband an emotional email about how I just couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t even know if I sent it or not.
As soon as the words were out I felt immediate conviction. A poem I had received when Kaylee was born came to mind:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep
I fell to my knees and started praying to God for help — and for forgiveness. I had allowed my own selfish pride in my home and my kitchen to get in the way of my children’s happiness and my own well being. That night/early morning, God impressed upon me that there is a season for everything, that every stage in a child’s life is to be treasured and enjoyed because it’s all just a drop of time in our eternity.
I had spent months wishing away Jeb’s first year, Scott’s second year, and Kaylee’s 11th year. I didn’t enjoy a moment of their lives because I was so wrapped up in how “hard” I had it. I didn’t have it hard. I simply had a baby, a toddler, a tween, an absent husband, and impossible standards for myself.
From that moment forward, I vowed to not wish for the next phase, to not wish away the passing stage. Suddenly, it became okay that the only load of laundry I’d finished that day was a load of diapers, and that they weren’t folded and they were just in a pile on Gregg’s side of the bed. It became okay if we were all still in pajamas at noon. It was okay that half of Kaylee’s lunches were purchased at school and that more than half of the ones she took to school had store-bought bread. None of that mattered, because I knew, as my mom said, “This, too, shall pass.”
And I started enjoying being a mom again. I LOVE being a mom. I believe that I was put on this earth to mother my children.
My husband spent March home. It was amazing the difference just having another adult home. We spent the month redecorating the house and letting me — nap! I napped and when I woke up I shopped alone. I took long showers and even shaved my legs. I was down right spoiled.
He left again in April. This time he’s 8,000 miles away and wears body armor. But, Kaylee absolutely blossomed and seems to have stepped into the next stage in life. She’s more mature, more independent, and has a willingness to help that never existed before. I’ve rearranged Scott’s schedule and shuffled some ways we do things around and he sleeps five nights out of seven. I weaned Jeb in June and he started sleeping through the night. I volunteer out of the home one night a week and get about 5 hours of “alone” time.
My schedule is back, just as strict as before. But I’m operating in less pain, on more sleep, and if I need to take a day off, I take a day off. And it’s okay.
I have never spent a day not loving my children completely and unconditionally. But for several months there, there wasn’t a thing about being a mother that I enjoyed. As we discussed in part one of this series, the love in this verse is phileo love, which is tender, affectionate, and passionate.
When I allowed myself to get overcome with “me”, I lost the passion that I have for loving my children. When it came back, and it was almost a tangible return, I felt like it put me back in my right place in the universe.
In Mitten Strings for God, author Katrina Kenison put it very well:
Just when I figure out how to mother a kindergartner, it seems I have a first grader standing before me instead. I have just learned how to love and live with a nine-year-old when the nine-year-old vanishes, leaving a preadolescent in his place. They don’t stay still long enough for me to have my fill of them ever, at any age. “Stop!” I want to shout. “Let’s just do it this way for a while, let’s just stay right here.” But the movement is inexorable – up and out, way, into the future.”
Love your children. Love them with tenderness, affection, and passion. Enjoy each stage, each phase, each passing moment. Trust God to be your partner in loving them, let your love for them glorify Him. He’s promised us over and over again that He would never leave us alone, that He would be by our side. That includes those colicky nights when you don’t feel like you will ever sleep again, and it includes the times when you have to counsel your daughter on body image, and it includes the times when you have to had your son the keys to the car for the first time. Enjoy them, love them, and love loving them. God will bless you through them.
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