August 26, 2009

Children As A Blessing

I am currently reading the blog, Generation Cedar, written by Miss Kelly. I had read a few random posts in the past, but never really taken the time to fully read and absorb her postings about Christianity, family, and children in particular.

She gave birth to her eighth child recently, and reading her experiences through the last weeks of her pregnancy, and the natural birth, really resonated with my heart.

I come from a family where children are considered a burden. My parents love me, of that I have no doubt. But there was never a great public showing of affection. They never said (or say today) that they love me. Nor my brothers. It is just assumed that they do. I don't blame them, it is how they were raised, and they carried on that tradition, right or wrong.

But as a child, especially being the only girl, I craved that outward expression of love. One of the most hurtful things that came into my life, and cemented in me how I would one day parent, happened when I was about 13. It had been an especially bad day for me at home, as I was a common target for my brothers, they teased me, picked on me, often. When I tried to talk to my mother about it after her long (and probably hard) day at work, it resulted in an emotional meltdown for me. My mother, in her anger, told me that she wished I was never born.

That stabbed through my heart like a dagger. I didn't know how to process it. All I did know was that I wouldn't ever tell my own children some day, that they were never wanted. I vowed that day not to be that hateful, to those I loved.

Fast forward 30 years, and I am a mother to three beautiful children. I feel so blessed to have them in my life. They amaze me every single day, with their hearts, minds and souls. Oh, don't get me wrong, they bicker like normal siblings, annoy sometimes, and exasperate me at times. But I would never trade it for anything in the world.

I love them with everything I have in me. And I have always strived to make sure that they know it. When they were smaller, it was lots of hugs and kisses, lots of telling them they were loved. Now that they are older, especially my middle child, it is less hands on, but it is still just as heartfelt, and expressed every single day.

I do not let a single day go by, without telling each of them how much I love them. We show our love in a different way, now that they are older. There is lots of laughing, sharing what we have learned, offering our opinions, and so much more.

My own family is so perplexed at this. My grandmother, who is a difficult person to get along with on a good day, believes in her mind, that I think my children are perfect. Far from it. My children misbehave, albeit not in major ways, they are children. But because I defend my children, and do not have to speak in correction much, she mistakes this for something else. I cannot change how she feels or views things. It is her opinion, warped as it is.

I had a compliment given to me in the last year, from the most unlikely aunt. I didn't care much for her as a child. She is a very abrasive person. But, as I have gotten older, I have seen her heart for what it is. She is a product of my grandmother raising her. Just as my mother is. She came to visit last year, and praised me for my children. She was impressed with how well they behaved, their manners, and just them in general. I thanked her, but told her I was just lucky. She insisted that I wasn't, that it was all about what I did as a parent.

A full year later I realize she is right. While early in my parenting, I didn't follow God closely, I did believe in him. My parents did a great job of teaching me right from wrong, and I passed that on to my children. I made a LOT of mistakes as a mother over the last 17 years. But I also did a LOT right.

Unlike other children in my family, my children know that I cannot be manipulated. If you want something, you ask outright, and accept the answer. I do allow a dialog (which baffles my mother), but ultimately, the final decision is mine, as Mom, to make. There are several children in my family, who have perfected the ability to put on a manipulative act, to get what they want. And if it doesn't work, they do what they want anyway, and then feign innocence when caught in a lie or misbehavior.

I refuse to play those games with my children, and while I laid down the law in a harsh way when they were younger, and have since learned how to parent more in line with God's will, my children know where I stand on issues. I am able to relax when my 17 year old daughter is with her friends, because I know that she is fully aware of my rules, and knows the consequences of disobeying me. Some of her friends have tried drinking and smoking. She has no desire. I am a smoker (yes, I know, lectures can be kept to yourself thank you), and she wants no part of it.

I am able to sit and discuss with her any subject. From sex, drugs, alcohol, or how to handle a situation at school, she knows that I am open to that loving communication. So do my two boys, although they haven't reached that level yet of peer pressure (breathing sigh of relief here for just a moment).

So, I continue to treat my children as the blessings that they are. I rejoice every day to have the opportunity to know these young people that God has decided to bring into my life. I learn just as much FROM them, as I am passing on to them. I get excited when they get excited, wanting to share something with me that they learned, so much so that they stumble over their own tongues.

And while my family may not understand what this true love looks like, I will never change how I parent and love my children. It is time for that "children are a burden" mentality to be over.

Hug your children, remind them every day how much they are loved, and never apologize for it.

Be Blessed.

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