For the Children’s Sake

At our last family holiday, we had 9 children under age 7  playing and shouting and tumbling around us like so many cuddly puppies. We did some extra things, but most of the week was about making food and taking care of children.

Which seemed right to me. And it got me started thinking.

I grew up in a culture where children were at the top of the list of priorities. After your relationship with Jesus and your spouse, your children were the most important things in your life.Everything else came after that. There were Child Training topics and seminars at church.(Does anyone still have them?)  Huge effort and funds went into the church school to make it productive and functional for the sake of the children even if they could have been sent to public schools for free.

Last fall, four of us Mennonite Americans were in a Polish language class, and the theme of one lesson was computers and technology. We were to choose one idea from a list of nine and give our opinion in Polish. Should employers block websites from their workers? What’s the best way to learn a language? And so forth. Individually, we each chose the same topic to talk about: “Should children’s internet usage be monitored?”  Even our teacher commented that we were all interested in the same topic: children and their safety. It’s who we are and what we care about.

At any gathering of my friends or relations, there is always a good chunk of time given to the children’s latest capers and stories. We laugh and laugh, constantly amazed at their ingenuity and originality. We cheer for every baby born, and keep track of when they start walking and talking. What they do is huge and significant to us. A recent testimony from a mom showed me what she treasures: “God graces me through my children.” And isn’t anyone is better for having a two-year-old in their life?

Moms and dads in my world sacrificed and skimped and served in hidden ways to make happy, educational, safe lives for their children. I sometimes think we were the exception after all the horrible stories I’ve heard of trusts betrayed and hearts missed. It makes me want to scream and throw things and shout out a million questions. But even that response stems from my deep sense of what is right and good and what I grew up with.

My (limited) perspective tells me that valuing children is the right, whole way to live. The first social structure God created was the family, and it seems impossible to improve on that design. It seems to me adopting God’s values in all of life includes loving and cherishing children. Even if it doesn’t come perfectly naturally for some of us.

So we’re part of a pro-family counter-culture where we do our best to live well and according to our design. This leaves women who live with long-term singleness and/or infertility in a kind of no-man’s land. How to live this well is something I’m exploring and asking questions about.

These are some things I think we CAN do to reflect our design and to be more whole. I’d love to see your additions and ideas in the comments! (Or, if you’re shy, by email.)

  • Fight for the marriages and families of your friends.Pray for the struggling ones. Believe in and cheer for them.
  • Teach children and teens your interests in art and creativity. Use your  hands to be involved in their lives. I maintain there’s something sacramental about our hands and what they do.
  • Ask God for marriage and children for your single friends–and yourself.
  • Teach children’s Sunday school.
  • Help equip young women with domestic skills because they will be useful skills for life wherever they go.
  • Tousle a child’s hair when you walk past them. Cuddle a baby as often as you can.

9 thoughts on “For the Children’s Sake

  1. Good thoughts, Anita. You would have enjoyed the discussion we had last evening. We had the singing last evening and about ten of us got into this discussion about the place of families and singles. One young man especially feels our emphasis is imbalanced (said he never knew 1Cor. 7 existed until he was 15).
    He also noted that the early church recognized people who were called to a life of singleness and looked to them for many important functions of church life. Someone thought we could even have “weddings” for people called to a life of singleness.Another suggestion was that several singles live together with a unified focus of service. It was very helpful for me to think about some of these things again.

  2. #2 An overriding theme that came through in our discussion was the need for proper focus. Families and singles should together be focused on the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. This would help to unify and give the feeling of one large family in church life. There was more, but I’ld better stop with this.

  3. I believe that singles play an important role in the kingdom of God. For me, I think it gives me a grand opportunity to reach out to others. A wife and mother naturally is focused on her home but as a single I can have many families. I am able to help many others and bless their children’s lives. A woman once told me that I didn’t have to have a child to be a mother. I was a caring person and that made me a mother. I have often appreciated her comment.

  4. Wow, this is so good, I am not sure what to say. And I want to first say that since I am married, I know that I don’t understand singleness well. So I am not sure if it is even in my place to comment– the last thing I want to do is cause more pain.

    I have some incredible single friends that I always enjoy interacting with if I have opportunity to, and I always come away feeling grateful and wistful. Weird I know. But they feed a part of the woman soul in me that needs woman companionship and mind stimulation, and open my world up more for me. And offer BEAUTY, that I get so hungry for!

    Anyway, I wanted to say that I have been so hugely blessed by singles caring for my children. They usually aren’t jaded by the overwhelming part of caring for children, and they just fill up my kids’ love tanks in ways that I am not always able to do and wish I could do. A couple years ago when Brian and I were starting a walk through some incredible pain, I remember crying out to God over and over about my kids surviving when it felt like we could not love well. And that year our oldest child’s S.S. superintendants just did an incredible job of speaking into the kids’ lives in the little children’s church we have after Sunday School. Many, many times, Monica would talk about the little session they had, and I would just feel stunned with how God was caring for her heart through others when it felt like we as parents couldn’t. Last fall we had another miracle baby, and the next to youngest child is four, and just started Sunday School at a time when he was going through a lot of adjustments, and I saw the same thing happen again. His teacher is a beautiful single woman, and teaches a class of mostly boys, and has her hands full!!! But Drew at FOUR comes home Sunday after Sunday bringing ME messages from God. I can not believe what all he grasps from those lessons, and from what she says she is not always sure the kids are even paying attention. 😦 Somehow she has made Jesus real and so precious and near to him, and how we as parents want that more than anything else for our kids. When she taught about the wedding at Cana she had taken two crocks along and put cool-aid mix in the bottom of one to demonstrate the water turning into wine. He told us the whole story at Sunday lunch, and then proceded in awe and delight to tell us how “_____” (his teacher) had gone up to God to get the wine, and then they got to drink some of it. We asked him more about it and Brian thought maybe she had gone to the kitchen, but he was absolutely sure she had walked up to God and gotten it. As we continued the conversation his confidence in God being so good and so approachable for our needs was just incredible, I so needed to be reminded and cared for myself.

    We have another friend who became our children’s “Tante” at a time when they so needed “family.” For years she has given them wonderful, wonderful books that we couldn’t begin to afford, and since we are all book nuts it just means the world to us! I guess I just feel so much like we so NEED you singles to help us love and lead our children to Jesus!! I wish I could better say how crazy much it means to us!
    -Sherilyn

  5. Thanks for that incredible post, Anita. The practical suggestions at the end confirmed that you are a woman after my own heart 🙂 God bless you ABUNDANTLY! -Judy
    P.S. Along the line of cuddling the babies, their older brothers and sisters LOVE to have stories read to them. Especially when mommy is in a busy season of life.

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