Thursday, February 20, 2014

You'll Never Be Ready for Children

If you missed it, I wrote earlier this week on the concept (and misconceptions) of being "open to life." It seems only fair to write a little bit about the other side of the coin. There are, quite admittedly, those couples who put off having children until life calms down, until they are ready or the time is right. I hate to tell them this - there is no right time (in general) and you are never going to be ready for children.

I used to think I would rock the mom gig, and well, we all know how much of a hot mess I am many days. I had little understanding that nurturing little minions would not the be same as simply being a nurturing friend, relative, person. Sure, I could pack a mean picnic lunch and hold your hair back when you were sick, but that gig isn't even close to the all-day-every-day gig of nurturing new life throughout the years.

We simply are never ready to have another life take control of ours. As much as marriage has been an exercise in dying to self and thinking of the other (and you know how much I love exercise), having children magnifies that a thousand fold. While we might think we are one day ready for children, whether we jump right in or wait until the "time is right," children will always throw us off our game. Here's why:

  • Children draw us out of ourselves. We no longer live for ourselves, and there are live, noisy little people constantly reminding us of this. 
  • Children call us to break our selfish natures. Want a hot meal? Not with little children! Even if it is hot when you sit down, their needs will always come first, be it more to drink, more dressing, less bread...and so it goes with everything. Sure, we have to guard the self, since without a healthy self there is no self-giving, but the inherent nature of children is constructed to break our self-centered patterns. It is a divine design to help us get to heaven.
  • Children are often inconvenient and needy. I love my children, but they sure do cramp my social life. I can't run out the door at a moment's notice. Heck, we can barely make it out the door in less than 20 minutes at all! They make a go-go-go lifestyle rather impossible if you are actually focusing on what is healthy and good for them. Could you always take them on the run? Sure. Is that the best thing for them? Nope. Besides, even on the run, they will undoubtedly need you to take them to the bathroom, feed them, tie their shoes, find their lost mittens, etc. etc. etc. 
  • Children challenge us in every way possible. It's no wonder my sanity is sometimes holding on by a thread. Not only do they challenge me to die to my own self interest, they challenge the way I think about things, do things, and love things. Their growing pains become my motherhood pains. Teething, tantrums, potty training - all things that are perfect and natural and good. They are also all things that try our patience (well, mine anyway). 
  • Children often force us to choose. As we begin to create a new life that embraces parenthood, we are forced to choose between our old ways and new ones. Date nights have to be planned with excruciating detail - no more spur of the moment movies and dinners! Our old habits and routines have to be amended and often thrown out as we discover new patterns that incorporate our children. Their routines are our routines. Afternoon tea, gym or shopping? Not the slightest chance in hell if we can avoid it - it's naptime!
  • Children make us realize we don't know it all...and sometimes make us question whether we know anything! With all the information and decisions you get inundated with as parents, sometimes it seems as though you've been thrown overboard without a life-vest and left fending for yourself amidst murky waters. No matter how much you read up, they'll throw something new at you in record speed.

Sounds delightful, no? If you focus on the ways you will never be ready, though, you miss out on what a blessing that very notion is. It is such.a.blessing...albeit sometimes a painful one.

  • Children reveal a strength in yourself that you may never have known. There are so many times the lazy-crazy woman in me wants to throw in the towel. These kids...these KIDS! They make me want to climb back down the crazy wall and keep on fighting because I don't want to miss out on one single moment of their life. Those days I wish the fight was over? Those are the nights I pray hardest that the Lord would give me the gift of letting me watch my children grow old and blossom. 
  • Children give you new eyes of unabashed joy. Life can be hard, and sometimes the gig of adulthood dulls our senses. These little minions bring you right back to a sense of wonder. Every moment is a new discovery, a new thrill, a new excitement - even if they've done the same thing repeatedly. It is always a *gasp* "SEE?!?" Yes, I do see, and I pray I might have an ounce of that joy and enthusiasm on a regular basis.
  • Children show us intimately the love God has for us. There used to be moments when Li'l G was still a baby that I would go into her room when she woke at night and rock her. She would have a way of taking my arm and gently stroking it that would always send shivers down my spine...not because it was creepy, but because in that moment, I knew I felt a divine hand on my arm. God sends us His intense love for us in the disguise of our children.
  • Children lead us to holiness and greater love. Sure - it is a lot of work for some of us. All good things require some work. Our babes are a reminder to us of how we are working out our salvation, what areas we need to work on, and if we look closely, a guide on how to get there. They give us the ability every day to grow in the love we show them in the little things we do. They offer us a chance to let go of our past life, to let go of any resentment that we no longer possess that life, and to grow in our joy and love of the life God offers us now. They are our ticket to heaven in the sweetest of ways.
  • Children make us better people in that quest, but...they love us now. How many times have I acted in a way that I regretted, only to have a little person bounding right up to me for hugs and kisses. Could we all "be better"? Absolutely. Do many of us need to work on letting ourselves be loved as we are? I think if we are honest, the answer is a resounding "yes!" and not just for the women in the room. Children are a gateway to the self-acceptance that can lead us to the humility we need to grow in virtue. 

The moral of the story is this - later isn't always better. While there are many reasons as I alluded to in the previous post for delaying a growing family, waiting to be perfect and ready is pure deception because it is the ever elusive quest. You will never be ready, and it is a glorious thing!

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