Last week I took my kids to Sonic to get slushes. It was just me and the kids, but Clay had the minivan, so we were in Bertha, our 15-passenger van, and yes, it is a former church van. The girl brought our tray full of slushes to the van window and started passing them to me. As she did, she asked, “Are you guys a church group or something?”
Surprisingly enough, I think that was the first time I’ve gotten that particular question. I laughed and said, “No, we’re a family! They’re all mine!” She looked shocked, then said in an I-think-you’re-crazy kind of voice, “Well, that must be stressful.”
I laughed again and said, “Yes, sometimes it is, but we love it. They are a joy.” With a skeptical look and a disbelieving sniff, she said nothing, just handed me the straws and walked away.
I posted a Facebook status about it that night, so forgive me if you’re reading about it again. It still weighs so heavily on my heart, and I think there is more to say.
That girl was young. Couldn’t have been more than 20 or 21. How does she already have such a jaded attitude toward children? So jaded that she found it impossible to believe that a van full of kids could be joyful?
I thought back over the evening. Clay was out of town for the second time in two weeks. I was in Paducah with all the kids, several errands to run, and I was exhausted. Things had been pretty smooth during Clay’s first trip, but this one was bumpier. We had been in Walmart earlier, and it hadn’t gone well. In fact, “stressful” is exactly the word to describe it. Kids were arguing, I was trying to rush because we were running late, and there were a few moments that weren’t quite joyful.
Who saw us during those moments? What story did I tell about being the mom of a big family? What story did I tell about being a mom in general? Did I tell the truth about children?
My kids get frustrated with all the comments we get about our family size. They hate the assumptions that people make about how wild things must be. So we tell them often when we go out, “Act in a way that will prove all those people wrong. Show them that big families don’t have to be miserable and chaotic.”
This girl at Sonic made me wonder if I am proving people wrong who think kids can only be stressful. Granted, her statement to me was based only on the number of kids; she saw no interactions between me and my children. Her attitude came from somewhere else. Maybe she just wasn’t a kid person. Maybe she had a bad experience of some sort. Or maybe, she had been around a lot of moms who communicated to her by their words or their actions or both that the best descriptor for kids is “stressful.”
My daughters tell me often about this friend or that friend who said she feels sorry for them, having all those siblings. This bothers my girls, and I have a hard time not being infuriated when I hear that someone has said that to them. How did those kids become so cynical about children at such a young age? I can’t help but believe it’s possibly because their own parents have not communicated to them what a blessing they are. I have been shocked by the number of parents I hear talking negatively about their kids with the kids standing right there. We are not perfect parents, and we often have to apologize to our kids for speaking impatiently or rudely to them, but I think there is one thing that is unquestionable at the Hall house: we love babies, and we love children, and we even love our teenager, and even though we’re not planning to have any more biological children, we pray that God is not finished filling our quiver and that one day in the not-so-distant future He will bring us a new Hall baby to love. I am so grateful that our children are possibly even more emphatic about that desire than Clay and I are. I want my kids to know 100% that children are a blessing, and for them to spread that message as they branch off and build their own families. Whether they have one child or ten, biologically or adopted or through whatever means, I pray that they tell society the truth about children.
What about you? Are you telling the truth about kids? If you have kids, how do you talk about them? I don’t believe in coloring things rosy when they’re more of a shade of gray, but you can say you had a rough night without giving details that paint your kids in a negative light. Nothing makes me cringe more than a mom’s Facebook rant telling a specific story about her kid’s misbehavior or bad attitude with no redemptive purpose other than just venting. You know who I see doing that most often? Moms who profess to be Christians and who I know love their kids fiercely. But in that moment, are they proving that Sonic employee wrong, or validating her negative attitude? I’ve tried to be super careful about what I post about my kids, but I’m sure I’ve posted some things that didn’t convey the truth that children are a blessing. Nothing would grieve me more than to know that someone developed a negative attitude toward kids from watching me, unless it would be that one of my kids would grow up with a negative attitude toward children from having been part of our family.
Our families are a story. What story are we telling? There is a bigger purpose to having a family than just having a family. God always has a deeper purpose, and I don’t claim to know all the kingdom purposes for families. But one purpose for my family, I believe, is to show the world what God thinks about children, about life. One purpose of the parent-child relationship is to model the relationship God offers His children as our perfect Father. Our interactions with our children, both those with an audience and those in private, should always have that thought as the foundation. Granted, we aren’t perfect and we will sin against our kids, both directly in our speech or actions toward them, and indirectly by telling others the wrong story about them, but those times should be followed by a quick repentance and asking them for forgiveness. And they shouldn’t be the norm. Our lives, our attitudes, and our words should communicate to our children and to everyone watching that we agree with God when He says children are a blessing.
So, are your kids a blessing or a source of constant stress? Having kids is indeed stressful, I’m not going to lie. But is it honest to present that stress as the overtone of the whole picture? If it really is, then I’m going to carefully suggest that the source of the problem is not in the kids, but in the heart of the one who is constantly stressed out by the kids. If that describes you, if my words about children being a blessing bring tears to your eyes or maybe make you roll your eyes, then let me encourage you to search your heart through the lens of God’s word. Ask Him to show you the joy of loving those kiddos. I believe that is a prayer that would honor Him, and I can attest to that because it’s a prayer I have to pray quite often. I’m so thankful that His grace is sufficient for parents who lose sight of the blessing amidst the stress.
Tell the truth about your kids. Our society is anti-children enough without Christian parents contributing by telling the wrong story about their children. Prove everyone wrong. Children are a blessing, and we can live lives that show it.