Thursday, February 2, 2012
Theology of Preschoolers
My husband and I were casually browsing through a gift store, something we like to do together, when all of the sudden I laughed out loud. On the wall in front of me was a sign that read, "boy: a sound with dirt on it." Now, I do not take myself so seriously that I could not laugh at the sign, but, the truth is that this is bad theology. To think of small children as less than eternal souls, blessings from God, and sweet munchkins is to lose sight of a biblical World view and, even for a moment, embrace the world's philosophy that children are a burden, a pain, disposable, and anything but a blessing. For this reason I dislike terms like rugrats, kids, brats, imps, or any such deplorable brand.
Biblical theology of little ones means that first we believe what the Bible says about small children, and then we act on that belief. It also means that we understand how God parents us, and we follow His example.
Psalm 127:3 tells us that children are a blessing. Websters defines a blessing as something that contributes to our happiness and prosperity. Two-year-olds are a blessing. In fact, they are hilarious. I think everyone should have one. What other age child thinks up the things a two year old does, and does them so cutely, with still chubby cheeks and words that are not perfect? Even if a four year old thought up putting the tambourine around their middle to wear like a hoola hoop and dancing through the house joyfully singing, it just wouldn't be the same. Two-year-olds take the cake in my book.
Psalm 127:5 Happy is the man who has a lot of children. Notice here that it does not say he is bedraggled, gritting his teeth and losing his hair. It says he is happy. The normal biblical product of lots of children, even multiple preschoolers, is happiness. If this is not the case then, something is out of order.
So we understand that little children are a good thing. Having three children under the age of three is good. Having four children under the age of 5 is a good thing! Having lots of children is good, good, good. If you find yourself surrounded by little dimpled hands, little diapered bottoms and not so little disasters all over the house, you know for sure that you are living the good life.
Before you quit reading, let me remind you that I have had at least two preschoolers consecutively for 18 years. I am speaking from belief and experience.
If you come to me and say, in an exasperated, mournful way, "I have four children, ages 5 and under!" I will reply by enthusiastically proclaiming, "Congratulations, you are truly blessed." You see, we first need to look at our circumstances through biblical lenses. It helps our perspective, which helps our attitude, which helps our behavior.
Once we recognize and embrace the idea that our little ones are precious gifts from the Lord, we will be better able to not just cope with, but enjoy and love life in the little years.
This leads me to the second thought of biblical theology of preschoolers.
I don't believe that having your hands full of preschoolers means your life is an uncontrollable zoo; something to be swallowed like a large vitamin, hoping it goes down quickly.
Jesus said that he came that we may have life and that abundantly. He has meant for us to enjoy a lavish life, not merely survive until the children are in gradeschool. Living with little ones does not mean that ideals and romance are put on the shelf until everyone is over 10. There is all kinds of beauty and lovliness to be experienced with your little lambs. This time that they are little goes by very fast, we need to make the most of it. We as mothers are the ones responsible for the atmosphere. It will be what you make it. These first years will set the stage for the rest of their lives, so we ought to be sure that we do our utmost to make every moment count, make beautiful memories, make strong, loving relationships with our wee ones that will last all their days.
I remember reading the unabridged Bambi to our first daughter when she was only months old. She sat on my lap and listened to my words, my voice. She was early to talk and early to read. I cannot help but think that those lovely winter days spent reading aloud to her helped shape those first steps. In short, anything that promotes relationship is worth investing in. I do not regret, ever, rocking a child to sleep. I do regret letting a baby cry in a room alone for a long period of time. I do not regret spending the entire afternoon playing with a one year old on the floor, then having nothing but pb and j to eat for dinner. I do regret times when I have been so absorbed in a project that my little ones suffered for lack of attention from mommy. Living beautifully with your little ones means taking time for them, putting them first. It means making friends with your one year old, loving their company. If you have never decorated cookies or made homemade pasta with a bunch of small ones I would venture to say that you are missing out on great, great moments.
When we parent the way God parents, we find much greater joy and fulfillment than the way the world parents. The world tells us to buy lots of colorful toys, put them in a room and toss in a few little ones, then go do our thing, whether that be the laundry, facebook, cleaning, reading a book, or whatever. The problem is, the little ones are bound to get into trouble, make a mess, fight, and use their creativity in all kinds of bad bad ways. Then the parent comes in and tries to make sense of it, clean it up, stop the fight and figure out what is fair. This is not good parenting.
When we become children of God, He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves and just clean up and restore order when needed. He is with us every step of the way, communicating and talking to us. Even when we mess up, He is patient and loving. What this tells me about my little ones is that wisdom is bringing them alongside of me as I go throughout the day. It is all about relationship. When I wash dishes, I may have the baby in the ergo and the two year old on a chair, helping. When I fold laundry, we all work together, when the baby naps, I do too. We read together, We go on walks together, I talk to them along the way, they talk to me, they tell me stories about when they were little, and we have a good time. When they want to play, I play with them, all the time teaching them how to play nicely, how to share with baby sister, showing her how to stack the cups and rock the dolly, how to put the toys away when we are done with them, thus leaving room for the next thing we want to play with. Too many times, little ones grow up not knowing how to play. They go from one thing to the next, leaving a path of terror and destruction behind them. This philosophy doesn't work well with little ones, and it is equally devastating with young people. God does not give us endless freedoms with no instruction or responsibility and let us have at it. He has provided instruction for every step, he gives us a little responsibility at a time, increasing until we are faithful with much.
You can tell a wise mama when you see her three year old looking out the window and exclaim, "look, mama, a waxwing!" Now there's a child who has joy of observing nature and marvels at creation. This child is conscience of beauty, and sharing it with others. There's a child who is under good training. Contrast that with the three year old boy I just met at the hospital the other day. He was with his dad and they were having a time of it. Dad would say, "sit here with me, we have to wait." The boy loudly argued, "but I want a car, a car, a car, car! " Dad says, "when we are done here, we will go to a store and get you a new car." Boy says, "I want one NOW! I WANT A CAR!" I was not feeling any beauty in this situation, nor did I think was the dad. I can only imagine what life was like at home. This poor little guy was miserable, even when dad finally went in the gift shop and bought him a toy, the boy was not happy. One can easily surmise that his parents do not spend any great length of time enjoying him, teaching him, and training him so that he could enjoy life. Don't get me wrong, all children have their moments, as do all mamas. Those moments are handled very differently and occur at different intervals in nurturing homes than in a typical American homes today. The point is, we were made for relationship.
A child who is lovingly nurtured is settled, happy, and obedient, a joy to be around. For mothers, this means we must, must, must spend lots of time with our children teaching them, training them, loving them. It will not do to be merely present in the same room. We need to engage them, connect with them, and that deeply. In this way, we fill their little love tanks full to the top. Herein are happy, sweet memories of you with your little people made. Here is an abundant life you will not regret. Such memories help us endure those painful moments like the afternoon when the dog got a hold of a dirty diaper and drug it down the stairs at the same moment the five year old poured molasses over his head getting it out of the cupboard, and while cleaning that up you hear the baby crying and realize that the two year old is giving all the stuffed animals baths in the sink with a whole tube of toothpaste. When you have a bunch of sweet little blessings running around those things really do happen. But, if our perspective is biblical, our outlook can quickly change from, "O God, I thought you loved me!", to "O God, this is hilarious, thank you for all these little blessings, now please help me clean up after them!"
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