08 June 2010

Crosses all around

Is this the biggest thing? I don't know, it's right up there. The thing: being pregnant and/or postpartum often interferes significantly with the care of other children. This makes us very uneasy and unhappy. I don't know that there's any getting around it for the at-home mom. Having spent so much time convincing ourselves of the importance of being constantly available to our children, it doesn't feel right to be incapacitated and unavailable.

But wait--incapacitation isn't a choice. Would you feel guilty about breaking your leg or having migraines? Think like a Christian, self. Pregnancy is not a choice (or more accurately, an attempted non-veto) for a married Christian woman. It is, where God ordains it, a way of life.

So where God has ordained it, it is a way of life for children (even very young ones) to sometimes have a mom who just can't be catching toads and pushing strollers and handcrafting ravioli and maybe even keeping up with lessons for a few months. Remember: all that stuff we've read about mothering was written well after birth control and small families became the norm; even before homeschooling as we know it today looked like it does today (whatever that is). Children are Christians too. We must stop thinking of them as our personal projects and measures of our own success. They must live with us even as we must live with them, and we must all live for now on this old earth.

Which means, children also must learn to bear their crosses. It hurts to watch, but they must. This is one of those crosses, and really a more gentle one than we might think when we're mucking through it. Most of the time, Mom is still there even if she isn't attending them as closely as usual. It doesn't last forever; she gets better and comes back. They gain the experience of doing more things for themselves and each other. I'd be willing to bet that it seems a lot worse to us than it does to them.

Excursus: I remember my mom recovering from surgery when I was nine only because it was fun that grandma came to stay with us. To my parents I'm sure it was a calamity. I didn't even think about it until I was writing this. And what do I remember about my twin brothers being born weeks before my fourth birthday (with a not-yet-two-year-old sister between us)? How fun it was talking to mom in the middle of the night while she nursed the babies--which my older children and I now do.

It is not given to us to engineer our children's lives for their ease. Ease is as dangerous to children as it is to adults. It is given to us to guide them in Christian sacrifice and model for them Christian sanctity. When we are down and out as the result of a new baby (born or unborn), the best thing we can do for our older kids is not drag ourselves into the playroom and sob through a puzzle during that precious 63 minutes while the newborn sleeps, or teach the three-year-old to count by tallying Mom's vomiting sessions. The best thing we can do for them is bear our crosses in humility, explain the situation to them in a simple way that does not vilify the baby, and spend time with them as we are able while entrusting their care to God, who sends his Spirit (and maybe also Dad or Grandma or an uncle or a friend . . . or maybe not) to comfort all of his children, including the pregnant and postpartum ones.

We cannot keep bad or hard things from happening to our children. Our work is to help them through the bad and hard things that happen in life, and also to help them learn to distinguish what is bad from what is hard--a skill in which the world is thoroughly bankrupt.


Monique said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You truly have a gift my friend. Thank you for sharing with us once again.

Susan K said...

Excellent post, thank you.

Emily said...

It is a hard lesson for mommy to learn she was never meant to meet all of her child's needs.

When one of my daughters became seriously ill last year, the guilt I felt towards the other (healthy and neglected) children was almost crippling. I am thankful for a Father who taught me the hard lesson that He can meet their needs without me if necessary... that they can survive with some unmet needs (and wants)... That my hope and joy for them is in HIS great faithfulness towards them, not my own.

Of course I still must frequently be retaught this lesson!

Thank you for the excellent post- it is a good reminder that God is the one in charge of this project of making families, not us! What is hard for all is sometimes what is best.

HappyFox said...

Dude, you rock!

Thank you. :)

Marie said...

Again, well said! This is probably the most tempting reason for me to leave the life of perpetual partution... the guilt of not spending enough "quality time" ('cause it seems they get plenty of quantity=) with my others. The oldest was diagnosed with Autism 6 months ago, the middle is in her 2's and the baby is delightful (but I want to shut myself up with him and do nothing else!) It's easy to think, "If only I spent more time with ___, then we wouldn't have (whatever) problem."

Emily said it well: " He can meet their needs, without me if necessary..."

Melrose said...

I have nothing to say but Amen, sister, Amen!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the incredible depth that the Concordian sisters bring to this blog. Although I've supported the Concordias by practicing my profession to finance three kids (so far) in the Concordia system, I've probably got a few years on most of your commentors. I have three decades under my belt as a pastor's wife and still get to celebrate having children at home.

As I read todays blog entry I can't help but see the "cross" as actually an incredible blessing. That being said, because our children are absolutely loaned to us, it is necessary that they have the situational experience and personal freedom to not always be basking in our attention. These times provide them the chance to grow as siblings united (heaven knows they'll need this when their parents get old and need care), to "figure out stuff" and sometimes get it wrong . . . really just incredible times to stick their toes out and take a little risk. All good stuff when shepherding these loaner kids. It is crucial that our children see mom as saint and sinner, that gives us all a little cushion when we age and find out that we must separate from the nest. Carry on your incredible analysis - it's a joy to read!

Anonymous said...

"We cannot keep bad or hard things from happening to our children. Our work is to help them through the bad and hard things that happen in life, and also to help them learn to distinguish what is bad from what is hard--a skill in which the world is thoroughly bankrupt."

Wonderful! As opposed to this gem:

Peter Singer summarizes the book, “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” by David Benatar thusly,

"To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none."


Rebekah said...

Emily, YES. Thanks for that reminder that there are many complications that can divide our attention inequitably.

Anon 1, thanks for visiting. So true that our crosses are ultimately blessings.

Anon 2, I know I shouldn't be afraid of any mortal, but I am afraid of Peter Singer.

Elaine said...

Well, I'm too old to have children now and will soon be a grandma. I do know what you are talking about. Our children do need to have crosses in their life and they will. We just don't want to protect them from those crosses (we want to - that is our flesh does but let's say the Lord in us doesn't). It doesn't have to be just my physical incapacities. What about the times I'm too busy or get angry when I shouldn't? That's no excuse for me, but our children can develop character through these times, especially if they have repentant parents. But even if they don't? They have been baptized. They are the Lord's.

Rebekah said...

Elaine, good point. Neither death nor life nor angels nor even bad parenting can separate our children from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

lisa said...

"We cannot keep bad or hard things from happening to our children...Our work is to help them...learn to distinguish what is bad from what is hard."

Well said.

Gauntlets said...

When pregnant with my second, I would often catch my first in the bathroom making retching sounds over the toilet or lying on the floor pretending to be in agony. Imitation is flattery, I guess. :D

Jody S. said...

Gauntlets: With my last pregnancy, the three boys would sit outside the closed bathroom door and imitate (rather well and humorously) the retching from within.

Anonymous said...

"the three boys would sit outside the closed bathroom door and imitate (rather well and humorously) the retching from within".

OK, now that's funny!

Anonymous said...

May I please shanghai the Good Ship CSPP (may she ever sail) and direct people to these comments about Singer, on ALPB here

And, the boys-imitating-vomiting scene, it's only funny due to permission granted by the imitatee, I hope that was understood.

Anonymous said...

OK, that didn't work? on ALPB here: http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=2885.msg155700#msg155700

Jody S. said...

Anon-- Totally understood...and it was only funny because the boys weren't old enough to be obnoxious about it (they were 4, 3, and 1).