We spent Christmas at the nursing home, visiting my husband’s 94-year-old grandfather. Normally a vibrant conversationalist, each visit since he moved into the home a few years ago the conversations have gotten shorter as his mind loops back to the beginning of the conversation.
This time, the span was shorter than ever, including just one simple question about our children, “How old are they now?” he would ask. And then he’d comment on how he forgets that children show intelligence beginning at such a young age. He’d pause as other people talked, but soon would ask again, “How old are they now?” with the same genuine interest.
If my daughter lives to be 94, it will be the year 2110, which blows my mind. It feels like a very long time. And yet as soon as pregnant mothers pass from the random-stranger-warnings of, “Enjoy your sleep now!” they are hit with the next words of wisdom, “It goes SO fast!” But there are days when it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going fast.
I had given up on the hope of having children. I was very much single on my 30th birthday and even after I got married a few years later, I told myself that I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant (to protect myself from disappointment). I eventually did get pregnant and then I told myself I’d probably miscarry or else there would be a serious problem with the baby. But there wasn’t. Apart from the Guinness Book of World Record-breaking long labor and a couple days in the NICU for a possible infection, we had a healthy boy. And it was love at first sight. I actually looked forward to waking up and seeing him in the middle of the night.
Two years later, I had another sweet baby, a little girl. Now my kids are three and 17 months and I’m realizing that this parenting thing is no joke.
The terrible twos were true to their name and other very helpful people told me to expect the threes to be even worse. Throw a new sibling and a cross-country move in there and you may as well double the tantrum quota each child is committed to fulfilling.
But lately, I feel God has been whispering something hardly intelligible into my ear:
Enjoy your kids, Leslie.
Enjoy them. Smile at them. Slow down. Laugh, dance, talk and pretend with them. Learn how to be a child again.
I feel much like Robin Williams in the movie Hook, who returns to Neverland as an adult after discovering he is Peter Pan. I have forgotten so much. When I was little, I always wanted to write a journal to my future self about what it’s like to be a kid so I wouldn’t forget. But I have forgotten. I now sit with the throngs of adults that watch children playing and say in a tired voice, “Where do they get all that energy?”
This summer I was in a multi-generational women’s book study. I felt like I was following along behind the older women, gleaning from their every scrap. One seventy-year-old woman shared that as she looks back at her life as a mother, she wishes she had enjoyed her kids more at the time. She regrets missing out on them.
But sometimes I feel guilty for my blessings. I feel ashamed that I have healthy beautiful children when so many of my friends can’t get pregnant. Or when others long to get married and are still waiting for God to bring along the right man or woman.
I hesitate to enjoy what God has given me out of guilt. But that is like me giving my son a bike and him never riding it because the neighbor boy doesn’t have one. It seems heroic, but he is actually depriving me of the pleasure of watching him enjoy a gift my husband and I wanted to bless him with.
God delights in watching His children take pleasure in the blessings He gives them even more than I enjoy my children’s happiness over a gift I give them.
Solomon writes, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor–it is the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:12-13).
What are God’s gifts to you right now? Are you allowing yourself to enjoy them?
Yes, my life could be harder and I’m sure that there are times in the future when it will be, but am I enjoying life and all of God’s gifts right now? Or am I letting Satan steal my joy?
I’m praying that God would help me to love like crazy and stop holding back. I want to accept that He is elated to see the look on my face when I open His good gifts and delight in them as He intended. And right now, He is inviting me to enjoy my children.