So yesterday I was out for a walk on the High Street with the kids, on our way to the parkand as a bid to get some fresh air. We all, especially I, needed to burn off some energy, so I had strapped O to my back in the sling and was holding hands with the other two.
We are trying to allow I some more trust and freedom, as he is perfectly capable of walking miles, and he seems pretty able to judge risks. The challenge we have had is that because he isn’t talking yet, and doesn’t want to respond to us telling him to stop, we don’t want to risk him mis-judging traffic and getting hit by a car, so thus far we have kept him in the buggy when out and about.
However, the gorgeous boy is lively, intelligent and hugely curious and investigative, and at just over two and a half, has been (understandably) getting frustrated at not being able to walk and explore.
Therefore we are giving him more freedom out and about, by either holding his hand, or walking an appropriate grabbing distance from him, so that we can learn more about how he thinks.
So far, so good.
Despite the slight feeling of cabin fever which had prompted the escape, it was a lovely morning, and we were all enjoying being outside. I was holding my hand, leading the way, watching cars pass us with delight, G was walking alongside chatting to me about all sorts and O was on my back, watching the world go by and deciding whether or not to fall asleep.
We had a few smiles from people, had the amusement of seeing their faces when they suddenly realised that I had a third on my back as well, and I was feeling pretty happy and proud to be out with my lovely family.
Then a woman (who I am guessing was in her 60’s) passing us, stopped to say “Poor you!”, to which I exclaimed “Why ‘poor me’?!” and she looked and my children and said
“well you’ve got one, two, three of them.”
So I told her that they were wonderful and a gift, and she answered surprised “Oh, are they?”, I said yes, that they were, and yes it was sometimes hard but that they were wonderful. She responded with a mumbled “Oh, right then” and carried on her way. G had tried chatting to her, which she had seemed surprised by, and I was left gobsmacked by the encounter.
Now I am used to the surprise on peoples faces when they see how many small children I have with me, (there are only three thus far!) and the comments of “you have got your hands full”, sometimes warmly and sometimes disapprovingly given.
I usually answer something along the lines of “yes, and it’s great” or “full of good things” or sometimes “yes, isn’t God generous”, and temper my tone to meet that of theirs. But I have never had someone see us, (especially not when we were all happy, unstressed and not it full melt-down mode) and judge that I should be pitied, so directly. It made me so sad for her. And, I am not going to lie, a little irked at her rudeness. But mostly heartbroken at how far we have come in our culture in our dislike and fear of children, particularly larger families and especially young children.
No one who has had kids would deny that they take the whole of your commitment (and energy levels when young), and that there are days when you feel like you are struggling under the pressure of nappies, sleepless nights and the emotional exhaustion of being needed so keenly and physically. But the rewards so greatly outweigh the sacrifices (though some days we have to remind ourselves to take stock of this truth, and have a breather) that having a family is to be celebrated.
No one would ever choose to send a child back after having them, (and if they truly would, then there must be something wrong, and they need some more help) yet many, many people I speak to, christians included sadly, speak as though children are really such a burden and that it is irresponsible to have more than a couple unless you are a millionaire or simillar.
And the fact that we have swallowed this lie, hook, line and sinker is what truly breaks my heart.
It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Show me in the bible anywhere where someone with children, (even many children) rich or poor in finances, is seen as being cursed rather than blessed. Show me where God doesn’t provide for his children, and especially the growing families of young ones.
Even Elijah when he went to the widow of Zarephath to ask her to give him something to eat, was richly provided for in her poverty and her and her young son were taken care of. In fact God, through Elijah, even raised her son from the dead, so that she wouldn’t have to be without him.
I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
My husband and I are not rich. Far from it. Yet the Lord, the king of eternity, who has the whole of the resources of the universe which he created, has never struggled to provide for us, never let us down, because we have put our trust in him. And we continue to do so.
And far from being impoverished, we are richly blessed beyond what we need, and able to bless others in our turn.
Why would having more children stop that? Why would having more children do anything different than bless the world abundantly?
It wouldn’t. It doesn’t.
This is not about having a particular number of children. If you have one, or if you have twenty, they are all a gift. But it is about seeing them in the light of the truth that they are always a blessing, never a curse, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.
So if you see a parent of various (or any) small children, feel free to stop and say hello. If they are looking harrassed, why not kindly offer to help in some small way, it will be appreciated. And if they are not looking stressed out, smile and enjoy their family moment.
But if seeing a large family makes you feel afraid or threatened in some way, then ask yourself why it bothers you… but don’t say something negative or disparaging.
Encouragement goes a long way to lift someone’s day and a thoughtless comment can really knock their confidence and make them feel judged.
And don’t presume… I love my kids and enjoy their company. I supect if you gave them the time, you would learn to do the same.
I wouldn’t be without any of them. And in time, hopefully we shall welcome some more.