If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

*Disclaimer: this post may (or may not – who knows?) be challenging. Take it from me when I say, I’m speaking just as much to myself as to anyone. There is no condemnation here.

At the checkout line of the grocery store, Norah stole the hearts of the cashier and the bagger immediately. This is no surprise. She has one of those smiles. The cashier told me she has a two year old.

“Just wait until she’s older,” said the bagger to the cashier. “Everything you’ve ever done will come back and bite you in the butt. She’ll be your personal nightmare.”

The cashier balked. But the bagger insisted, finally turning to me, saying, “isn’t that right, ma’am? Isn’t that how it is?”

I felt shocked, but I said, “actually, I love having kids.”

I didn’t mean to, but it shut her down. She said something like, “that’s nice for you.” And then wished me a good day. She wasn’t venting out of bitterness. She was genuinely serious, one of those people who, out of the goodness of their hearts, offers you the worst possible advice.

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this, and it hasn’t been strictly from the secular world. Even among Christians, I hear similar de-valuing comments.

“These kids drive me crazy.”

“I can’t wait to get away from my kids!”

“I can’t wait until they’re old enough to move out.”

“When they move out, I’m putting my picture above the bed in their room. They’ll never want to move back in!”

Ok, now don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had days on end when I feel this way. Like on Micah’s third birthday when he threw the most gigantic fit to date and I literally had to hold the door closed so he couldn’t escape his time out. Who knew three year olds have the strength of Thor when they commit to something? Did I mention that was in front of about 10 of my friends?

Yes, there are times when the going gets extremely tough and we feel like we need a vacation before we can even face next week. I mean, let’s face it. Child rearing is the single most intensive exercise of Human Relations Skills that ever existed. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when we let our hearts harden toward our children, little by little, until our overriding response to and about them is negativity.

Of course we love them. But do we cherish them? Do we view them as blessings and treasures, as special and unique creations of the most creative God? Are we rooting for them at our very core? Are we fostering childhood and innocence?

The world around us is so antagonistic toward children. It kills off millions of babies, but it also tries to turn even tiny children into adults. Just look at any little girls’ clothing line. Or any little boys’ video game. Childhood is not sacred to our world. It is to be done away with.

But we are not of this world. If we don’t advocate for our own kids, who will? If I give into the negative attitude about my kids – that they take up too much time, effort, or money; or that they keep me from doing what I want to do or fulfilling my potential; or even feeling continually irritated at discipline, a messy house, or personality conflicts – then I buy into the world’s perspective. Then I throw out God’s view of my children. Then I stiffen my neck to His will for me as a parent.

Is it worth it for me to adopt a worldly, negative attitude toward my children because I feel inconvenienced by their needs? Or because I have regrets about something I did or didn’t do? Or is it more worth it to accept God’s view of my kids as incomparably valuable because they are actually His treasures that He is blessing me with?

It’s not really about feeling when it comes down to it. It’s really about choice. When we choose to stand up for our children’s value, both to ourselves in hard moments and to others, we act as guardians of who they are. We protect their childhood. We advocate for their innocence. We stand with God in defending them against the onslaught of worldly antagonism.

If it sounds dramatic, it’s because it is. Kids pick up on this stuff. Partially they pick up on it because (shhhh!) they can hear us. And there’s nothing like hearing and feeling that you aren’t wanted, accepted, or valued. But even beyond that, it’s an issue of our hearts before God. When I see Him face to face, I don’t want to have just gone through the motions with what He gave me. Given what I could but slandered or complained my way through it. I want Him to see that I took what He gave and with everything I have in me, I helped them to thrive.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be part of a change in our culture. One that sees children as valuable, not inconveniences. I’d love to respond to the “boy, you sure have your hands full” comments with such joy over being a mom to my kids that it leaves those around me wanting what we have. That it infuses a very typically negative situation with praise and love for childhood. That maybe, just maybe, it can spark a change in someone’s perspective.

Who’s with me?

3 comments on “If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

  1. I think that my past perspective on parenthood was largely due to my own hurt, shame, guilt, fears, and feelings of inadequacy… not because of my kids at all. As God has been healing those places in my heart, my mind and thereby my actions have been changing. Still not perfect, but my outlook on parenthood is so much sweeter.

  2. By the way, I hated myself for feeling the way I did. Not a recipe for a happy family.

  3. I’m with you! That is also one of my deep desires & a present goal. I have to admit, you’ve actually been my role modle thus far in being this kind of parent. I knw it’s possible, thanks to you.

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