Parenting brings with it a truckload of surprises, curveballs and disappointments, yet at the same time the rewards that we see as parents are before us every day. What is it really like having kids in a small town as a conservative Christian? Let me tell you:
- Everybody suddenly has the right to talk about contraception openly at work. That’s right – your colleagues will now become experts on family size, financial advisers, counsellors and generally stick their nose into your life as a Dad or Mum without your permission. They just will. I’ve had several people make the comment, “do you know how this happens?” (Conceiving) just about every week since we had our 4th. People have a kind of predisposition to make judgements based upon their opinions frequently, without filtering their mouths. You will get this, and how you handle it will range from awkward to confronting and everything in between depending on who says the comment.
- You will have that comparison syndrome where everybody else’s family seems more together and happy than yours every time you see them (despite your best efforts to beat them at being happy). This happens because when you are a parent your entire life revolves around keeping your children nourished, safe, educated, smiling, experiencing, reading scripture, daily entertained and even hygienic. Nothing else can put its foot in the way of that or the entire vehicle collapses, and the house ends up looking like somebody drove through it with a Boeing 747 jet on fire. The truth is, though, that every family that appears together really does experience the same hurts, threats, emotions, failures, struggles and triumphs as you do -they just happen to make it all look like it worked out in the end on time and before you arrive where they are!
- Christians who you know that don’t have kids or don’t want kids (they’re out there) will suddenly be almost obsolete once you hold your first child. Your priorities will change. Those friends you have that are out with friends, sipping coffee in silence, studying for a degree or becoming doctors, getting married or just waiting around to be will appear more immature than ever before (even though you will have some growing up to do). This happens because people with kids and people without are an entire earth rotation apart from each other in terms of workload, priorities, sleep, sanity, cleanliness and attire. The rapid rate at which things change when becoming a parent is phenomenal, and at some point the realisation occurs that there people in your care are humans, sinful, in need of a saviour and little disciples in training who need to hear about Christ daily. Nothing can get in between that goal like single friends, a career, study or money because kids consume the mind. They are a non-stop in demand force that needs to be tamed and trained and nurtured. Those friends of yours that go to the gym 5 days a week, study at night and sleep all day don’t really have a clue what on earth’s going on with you. But they will. Once they have kids.
- Spiritual things will become a sacred topic for you as parents. You will grab that Bible and read it to your kids as if your life depended on it – and teach them everything you can about God because as you age, you will realise that time is short, and children are only little for so long. Then they make their own life decisions and move out. And before then you’re the only role-model they have for Christian living and a Godly example.
- Silence will end up being your best friend, even if you used to rock out and be in a band. This is due to the monumental tiredness that sweeps over you once your children are asleep, and the fact that if you rock out into the night with children – you wake them up, causing a 2 week lag in your sleep, mood, facial expressions and general well-being.
- Your spouse, however competent they are – will be your strength as a tag team. When one falls down, the other picks up and vice versa. When it comes to parenting, both of you will have different strengths and weaknesses. Mine is to continually push on through things until they’re done, and remaining calm during messy times. I use these to our advantage and help where I can. When you have children your marriage bond is even more critical because you will both be pushed until you have very little strength left from running around all day, caring for your children and maintaining a household. There’s so much involved that leaving your spouse would be the most silliest thing you could ever do, as you’d just be lumping 600 per cent more work upon yourselves in an instant.
- You will burst out into laughter at some of the silliest things you could ever think of. Your children or your spouse may just come up with a crack up line when you’re least expecting it, like your daughter naming hot chips “chippedies.”
- A peace will remain about life no matter how chaotic it gets, because you know that despite your best efforts to train and nurture your children – that they’re in the hands of a sovereign, mighty and good God who knows how to redeem the most vile of sinners. There is nothing that can compare to His love, His wrath, His mercy or His faithfulness. So trust Him in all things, and He will do His work on your behalf. Proverbs 3:6 says, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” If we as parents guide our children in the scriptures, with prayer and with daily teaching about life and the world around them – they have a great witness and gospel centred hope. Their faith is likely to sprout because they have seen and heard from the very people who gave them life that they can be forgiven of their sin and trust in a perfectly capable and merciful saviour in Jesus Christ.