Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the woman a reward. (Psalm 127:3)
Today, my little girl, my firstborn, turns 26 years old. My husband teased her yesterday, asking her, "How does it feel to be into the first year of your late 20's?"
July 21, 1989 was a day very much like today, a little overcast, hot, humid, threatening rain. I remember the day we took her home, as we settled her into the car, sweating from every pore. I was drenched when I finally got in my seat, but it was more than the heat. It was the fact that I was very aware that I was beginning a new life.
I've heard people say, "Having children isn't going to change me." All I can say to that is "shame on you." It should. How can it not? We are given responsibility for a life, a stewardship from God. He is giving us these little people for a season to raise for his glory. How can we not change? Even if we don't make conscious changes (which we have to), they change us. Our children change us.
Marriage quickly reveals our selfishness. Having children maginifies those occasions. As we feel grumbly waking up in the middle of the night, or wondering when we're ever going to be able to use the bathroom alone again, our desire for personal comfort and ease is revealed as we parent. It's a daily exercise of putting our children first. No, we don't have to give up everything, and yes, I think women should still have other interests while they raise their children, but it's not the same as it was when they were yet unborn. Three years into being an empty nester, I am more fully realizing how much time parenting demanded of us. This morning, I was able to wake up at my leisure, have my tea in the quiet, read without interruption. It wasn't always like that. I had my years of being dragged from slumber, not getting to shower until afternoon, and not getting to read until late that night when they were all in bed. It's part of the deal; you can't have the blessing without the work.
And it is a blessing. My children have brought out my tendency to be selfish, but they've also been agents of my sanctification. They have inspired joy, laughter, sober thinking, and a constant reminder of God's goodness. They've made me laugh and cry. I'm sure I've made them do a lot of the latter. They have brought me moments of pride where I feel about ready to burst. Praise God, today, we have a good relationship. I'm enjoying watching the adults they've become. I still worry about them. I'm sure my boys, especially, wish I wouldn't worry so much about them. Even though I look into the faces of adults, in my mind's eye, I still see their tiny vulnerable faces when I look at them.
Parenting is like walking over a threshold. Once you get over that marker, you can look back and remember what it was like before, but you wouldn't go back over if you were given the chance. I'm grateful to God for my children, and for every moment of parenting, good and bad. I trust they will be merciful to me when they remember my shortcomings. I'm looking forward to, Lord willing, watching them receive the blessing of parenthood themselves some day.