You used to see her in the grocery store before COVID-19—the young mother in the pajama pants with two or three kids in tow, one of them wailing.
Her discontented countenance is etched in your mind. As she fires off some crazy threat to one of the children, everyone in the aisle glances up, then down quickly, as they see her grab and jerk a small arm in frustration. No one says anything to her, of course, but they all stop thinking about their grocery lists for a minute. The parents in the aisle have all been there at least occasionally and whisper a prayer for the little family. The grandparents in the aisle are wistful, maybe thinking of past mistakes, and the childless reconfirm the reasons they don’t have children.
When I see her, she reminds me to treasure my kids as gifts.
When we are in the middle of bad parenting moments like the mom in pajamas, we aren’t seeing our kids as gifts at all. They are the furthest things from advantages. Honestly, a whole list of hindrances comes to mind. Our kids become our chains, our failures, our shame, and our sorrow if we aren’t careful. In fact, it isn’t hard at all to come to a place in childrearing where you don’t even want to be with your children.
Children Are Gifts
Nevertheless, somewhere in a very good book, it says verbatim that children are gifts. Many of us don’t need anyone to tell us this. We know it intrinsically, but we still find our own selfish natures turning us from the very good things right in front of our noses to other unrealistic and utopian impossibilities.
Parents everywhere must see this essential fact first: Every child, in every situation, for every parent, is a gift to treasure. It’s the first step and can’t be skipped. Becoming a parent means you automatically become a gift receiver, and the realization of this is what’s necessary for true child-raising. The meaning of raise is to make higher. To bring up a child is to raise the state of the child’s concepts of self, others, and their world. The only way to do this is for the son or daughter to know he or she is a gift.
How does that child know they are a gift? This could be a very complicated question if people weren’t so predictable when they receive a gift. Sitting around a birthday cake or the Christmas tree every year is a common experience for most folks. Gifts that are really seen as gifts to the receiver are anticipated, cherished, and cared for from the beginning. They are unwrapped carefully with special glances at the giver. The recipient then takes time to thoroughly learn about this new treasured possession. At some gift exchanges, I have seen the gift and its owner steal back to another room to read instructions and try out all the various functions of the new present.
To some degree, this is how each child should be recognized by the parent. Children should be studied carefully. Their behavior is so indicative of how they see the world and how they are responding to you as a parent. When a mom or dad doesn’t take the time to learn about their child, it’s plain to see the child has ceased to be treasured.
Children Need Discipline
What about discipline? We don’t want this child-raising to get out of hand. Little Jimmy could become the terror of the neighborhood if his mother were too enamored with him. Yet would you not ruin the little man’s feelings of worth if you somehow show displeasure with his behavior?
When you receive the gift, of course you spend time learning how it works and give it attention; however, there are also parts of presents to preserve, clean, and manage. This maintenance must be done to keep them in top working order just as a child must be disciplined to sustain his contentment in life and build on the good things that have been established in his life. The disciplinary tools that many parents neglect are the positive ones. Sleep, good food, cleanliness, and orderly living can’t be overemphasized in a well-disciplined child.
After the child is truly seen for what he is—a gift—then he can be treasured. More time will be spent understanding instead of avoiding him using a myriad of useless activities to kill time. Disappointments will move increasingly to the margins. The reality of life with children will come into focus, and the utopian fantasies of your child’s perfection will dissolve into a distant memory. Fortunately, it’s never too late to change your perspective. Try unwrapping your gift today.
Tricia Fowler is a Christian homeschooling momma in the Midwest. She currently spends much of her time teaching math, feeding sourdough, and helping with whatever is in season on the hobby farm she shares with her husband and seven children.