Having kids proved to me that God has a sense of humor.
I had always suspected that He did (after all, He gave us the ability to laugh, and we’re made in His image), but having children confirmed it for me.
Here’s how: nearly every expectation or preconceived notion I had about having children was irrevocably wrong.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was convinced that I was having a boy. Convinced because I thought I wanted a boy. I told my husband that I didn’t even need to go to the ultrasound — I was 100 percent sure I was having a boy. My husband was convinced of the opposite, and he was right.
I was having a girl. And when plans of my “Keegan” boy name and the sports nursery I had already planned in my head were turned upside down with one matter-of-fact announcement from the ultrasound technician, I was horribly upset. But after I got over the shock, I went out and bought the pinkest, frilliest nursery set I could find and embraced the girl thing with open arms.
And you know what? I love having a girl and a first-born girl at that. She is my number-one helper around the house. She is so responsible and pleasant and hilarious. I can’t imagine her not being my child.
Similarly, I had other expectations when I was pregnant with my son. I did think I was having a boy (and was accurate the second time around), but when I got the boy I couldn’t wait to have, I was surprised by just how much of a boy he was. I didn’t anticipate that he would enjoy hanging off the blinds like a trapeze artist (until all of the supports snapped in half), or bring all of the rough-and-tumble and grime of the outdoors in my house. All the time.
And yet — I love my son dearly, and I have learned to let go of my cherished possessions and take it in stride when a lamp (or two or three) breaks.
And I feel pretty sure God laughs. Not in a malicious way, but just at how silly I must appear with my plans and ideas that I am so sure of. Then He unveils His plans and ideas, and they are nothing like mine!
A few other things I have found surprising:
1. My children have pieces of me.
I know this probably seems like an extremely narcissistic way to start this conversation, but I am most amazed by the fact that my children have some of me in them. Sure, I assumed they would somewhat look like me and perhaps display some of my traits, but I didn’t really think about what this would look like in reality.
My daughter has the same taste in movies as me. We love to watch Disney Princess Diaries together, and I have already introduced her to some of my other Disney favorites when I was a child: Parent Trap, Pollyanna, etc. She loves to write stories, and she took off with reading three months into her kindergarten year. Now, as a first grader, she has stacks of chapter books on her nightstand, and I catch her reading every free second she has.
I assumed that my love of all things reading wouldn’t transfer to my son. He didn’t speak in full sentences until he was three, so I thought that he might be slightly delayed with reading or not have an interest in it at all. But I was wrong. He pesters me all day about how to spell words (Mom, how do you spell?) and reads small words on signs and on book covers at the age of four.
Each night he won’t let me leave the room unless the light is on and he has at least 20 children’s tales littering the bottom half of his bed. As I go downstairs to clean the kitchen and tidy up the family room, I hear him reading out loud to himself in his childish voice.
I am reminded of all the nights I read late into the night as a young person, and I am astounded by this love for words that my children share with me. It makes me proud! I bet God looks down and smiles when we display traits of His — and feels that same parental pride.
2. How different my children are from me.
Not only did it surprise me that my children would have some of the same interests as me, I was equally surprised by their uniqueness as individuals. Even though I suspected that they would be different than me, I sometimes feel that these differences are shocking. Sometimes I am not sure if I am dealing with my own children or aliens.
The fact that they have opinions and want their own thing — A LOT — makes it hard for me to always relate to them. My daughter, for instance, is very caring and loves animals. I have never been much of an animal lover, so when she cuddles up to some of the smelly goats and calves at the petting zoo or talks to me about the traits of a particular four-legged friend, I have to feign interest.
It’s a stretch for me when she gets in caring animal mode. It’s just not something I relate to. However, I don’t want to take that away from her because I know how important animals are to her. So we go to farms and zoos and buy kitty fact books and collect stuffed animals from the Five and Below store. I definitely want to be her biggest support, but I have to work at it when that includes orchestrating activities that take me out of my comfort zone.
3. That my children would bring me pain.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I envisioned rosy moments of cradling an infant in my arms — and yes, I had those — but I didn’t realize that infant would also bring me hurt at times. All of those corny things you hear about your children being your hearts walking around are completely true. I feel the hurts that my children feel.
For instance, when my daughter came home and reported a few incidents where a certain girl excluded her in kindergarten, I felt like I had been mortally wounded. I wanted to go and take care of it right then and there (I know, super mature), but I had to instead talk to Elsbeth about her worth and her value whether other people noticed it or not. When she tells me about a girl not being nice to her, I feel like a stake is piercing straight through me. There has been this lurking fear that she will turn out just like me. And I don’t want that for her.
And I have similar pains (for different reasons) when my son throws exhausting fits and makes me wonder if I am doing anything right. Recently, my son went into a phase when we put him into preschool — a hitting Mommy phase — where many afternoons after I picked him up he would throw large-scale tantrums when I didn’t give him the snack he wanted or told him to turn off the video game.
He would come up and give me a defiant punch in the arm or kick in the shin. I know little boys are supposed to be physical, but I figured that would be with other little boys rather than his own mother.
But this little boy whom I rocked to sleep through long nights of colic when he was first born; the same one who wanted only his mother for three straight years (much to the disappointment of his father); the one who bounced into his classroom the first day of preschool holding onto my hand, proud to be sporting a brand-new Mario backpack — yes, this same one also has a temper that rears up against me.
Though he is pulling out of the phase now, there have been moments when I have cringed as I have pulled up in the preschool carpool line — afraid that his teachers will lean in the car and report that my son had gone bezerk during school hours, and they couldn’t control him. But they usually just smile and tell me he was very quiet in school.
Apparently, he reserves this behavior just for me.
No one told me the ache I would feel — loving a child who has such adorable qualities but yet can be so challenging to manage on certain days.
4. That my children would teach me things.
I grew up in the 80s where parents were strict disciplinarians (the ones I observed, anyway). They laid down the law and children were just children. The parents I knew were busy making all of the rules and the kids’ job was to follow them.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t believe kids should call the shots or make the rules in a household, but I have found since having children of my own that I really do learn valuable things from listening to them. They have, in many ways, helped me learn how to parent them and relate to them in more ways than I imagined.
Armed with parenting books when my daughter arrived, I was careful to follow the advice of the experts and psychologists. But I quickly learned that my daughter didn’t need all of the three-step plans for getting her sleeping through the night or weaning her from her pacifier. She was a very easy, compliant baby and needed very little coaxing to do the things we wanted her to.
She never tried to climb out of her crib or escape from her bed when we introduced her to a “big girl bed.” She helped me calm down as a mom, and I realized that she was more resilient than I thought she would be. She had to weather a few of my blunders — like when I washed her bottles for two straight weeks without realizing that I needed to separate the nipple parts to ensure their cleanliness, or tried a boot camp approach to potty-training.
However, she survived both of those mama fails and didn’t seem to notice or care when I finally figured out how to use the bottle dishwasher container I had received at my baby shower and got into a groove with potty-training.
5. That my children would reveal more of God to me.
Although I know and believe my children were made in God’s image, I wasn’t prepared for how much my children would heighten my awareness of who God is and His special plan for each of us — one conceived before we were even born.
With both of my children, I struggled to come up with names because my husband and I had such vastly different ideas concerning names, and nothing sounded right. So I prayed about what to name them, and God delivered.
I dreamed of my daughter’s name, and my son’s name just popped in my head one day when my husband and I were at an impasse as to what to call him. And these names fit both perfectly. I know and see that God knew my children before He formed them.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb … My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16).
Therefore, the most surprising thing of all, the thing that I wasn’t expecting is that my kids reveal more of God to me: they reveal how much He loves us, how much care He took to create us.
Though I laugh at how my children didn’t (and don’t) fit my own ideas of who they would be — those silly ideas I had revealed how little I understood about what a mother does or who she is.
My job as a mother isn’t to put my children or myself on display through my children — though they share some of my traits. My job is to continually point my children to their Maker, understanding that as my children grow in their walks with Jesus and get to know Him better, the Person that will shine the brightest through them is Him.
That though I already see His creative fingerprints all over them, the noblest task of motherhood is this: to know that the greatest plan for my children is to reflect God’s glory. To encourage them to continue to become, as the writer of Ephesians says, God’s masterpiece or poema — not mine.