When he proposed to me 30 years ago, Steve and I discussed children. He wanted to know how many I wanted to have. “I think four would be nice,” I told him.
“Four! Wow, that’s a lot…” he blurted.
Now that we have ten, Steve’s pat encouragement to younger parents with a growing family is that once you have three, you might as well keep going, because you’re already outnumbered.
We are sometimes asked at what point we began to feel a bit overwhelmed (yes, it happens to the best of us). My standard response to that query is, that point came for me after we had six children, because it was then I realized I was not in control any more. I should have realized it much sooner.
Today is the 17th birthday of that sixth child, our third and youngest daughter (three boys, three girls, four boys). Before she was born, I was a pretty confident mommy, disciplining diligently, homeschooling with gusto, and confident that my efforts would result in a crop of well-scrubbed and well-behaved youngsters who would march in line behind me like a scene in one of our favorite picture books, Make Way for Ducklings.
Those were the days before we graduated from a mini-van to a green 15-passenger van (aka, “Moby Pickle”). Those days are a faint memory.
I ought to say right away that it is not because of my birthday girl that I had a reality check. She is a dear daughter, a delight to her parents, and we are very grateful to God for her. She has always been, though, a lively girl from a young age, and when I once expressed to my father in a moment of weariness that I wished she had a little less energy, he wisely told me that one day she would be the family party planner and that I would be grateful for it. He was very prescient and wise. But that is not why I say that six was the magic number that transferred us from a state of being self-appointed parenting experts to the position of daily dependence on the manna of God as it sometimes seemed we were wandering in the wilderness.
It is not uncommon for people blessed with children to make this transition, but it is uncommon, I’m afraid, for parents to realize that the latter state is preferable to the former. It is where the blessings are found.
When dark trials come and my heart is filled with the weight of doubt, I will praise Him still.
We are used to tidy TV dramas with conflict resolution within an hour, minus commercials. When we have the ongoing difficulties of daily life, multiplied by the number of people in our household, we might wonder if it’s time to change the channel. We might even want to cancel the program. But we are not in charge of the script; it has been written before the world began, and we are merely players, as Shakespeare, the playwright, so famously noted. The point of the cliffhanger is not to jump off the cliff. If you hang on just a while longer, then the denouement explains all that was mysterious, and the resolution (in a well-written story, and we know that this story we are in is the best that was ever crafted, don’t we?) is worth waiting for. Wait on the Lord.
As I spent the day with my daughter and my other children, I remembered all the times I have had to wait and I thought about the times I will continue to wait. But looking back, I know that time is a tricky thing. In the thick of the moments that vex us, it does seem to drag, but I know that it’s soon gone like a vapor, and I wish for even some of those long days as a young mother with a house full of little ones. That spurs me to make more memories now, and cherish the children God has given us. I am so glad I am not in control.
My three girls at our birthday picnic today