Secrets to enjoying your children more

Face painted girls

Ever get tired of your kids being around and wish they would just.. give you a break for a few hours, days.. weeks.. or if we’re honest, maybe even months and years?

Perhaps they should be sent off somewhere as 2 year olds and come back as mature, loving 22 year olds that make us proud?

If you don’t enjoy being around your children, you are not alone.  We were talking with a neighbor the other day with two pleasant, seemingly well-behaved children.  She could not wait for school to start again, because she could not stand being around her children the whole day.  Stace and I were shocked at her confessing this in front of her children, because her and her children seem happy, and they all seem to be “chill” – getting along well together.

A lot of my selfishness was burned out of me during the first three children.  By the time our third child arrived, Stace and I’s lives had shifted to primarily about raising children, devastatingly (it seemed at the time) pushing aside our “self realization”, our “I can do anything anytime that I want” complex and our arbitrary life goals that we thought had significant meaning.

Enjoying babyThe wonder of children is that they are a long-term investment.  Many people wish that they had more (or any) children on their lonely death bed, or when their one child dies before they do and they realize their name is not passed on.

The question is – are we going to live life God’s way, or the world’s way?  Satan is incredibly deceptive, making us think that true freedom and joy comes in self pursuits.  We need to drop that philosophy before it causes us to waste our lives on single-minded pursuit of careers and visions of luxurious, lazy retirement days.  At the loss of the joy of a heritage of godly children.

1. Get over your self as soon as possible

In my experience, selfishness is the greatest initial robber of joy having children.  Life with my first child was like this: “Oh, that’s nice, but I can’t leave the house anytime I want.  And I need to support my wife more, because suddenly she can’t do everything for herself.  Woe is me, I’m going to have to drop my ‘sit on the couch and watch any movie I want’ habit.”

Yes, children are dependent.  The first 7 years or so, they give back primarily in joy and laughter (if you can figure that out and receive the gift!)  After that, they can start pulling their own weight in terms of chores, cleaning up after themselves, and being involved in some of their own hobbies and pursuits.

When Stace and I had one then two children, it was harder to let go of self pursuits, hobbies and degrees we thought were a life direction.  But God had a different plan for our lives as our hobbies started to fade away and we realized our life for the next decade or more would be about raising children who love God and love others.  And that is CRAZY hard work.  But CRAZY profitable, in the spiritual realm and the joy realm.

See, when I lived on my own in a small apartment in Rome, New York, I had every belonging I wanted.  A 4WD Jeep Grand Cherokee, a huge-screen 50 inch TV, plenty of government-paid travel.  But I was sorely missing meaning and joy in life.  I didn’t have a strong relationship with the Lord, though He was pursuing me by removing the “joy” I used to have with stuff.

God gave me a wife and now children, and my response must be humility, thankfulness and joy.  Because why would I want the opposite of those?  Pride, self-centeredness, ingratitude and discouragement?  No thanks!

How do we accomplish this?  Only through life abiding in the Lord, of course!

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4, ESV

Here’s another good one – think of your children as your nearest neighbors!

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.  1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV

2. Learn to enjoy the mundane things

It took me about four children in until I learned to enjoy diaper changes.  Changing your kid’s diaper is at first weird, then humiliating, then burdensome and tiring.  And I have had all sorts of other reactions.

But you know what?  Your little guy is in his most needy season of life with YOU!  God gave him only you and your spouse to keep him alive!  These little guys and gals are SO dependent!  And that can make you feel super valuable and critical to her life if you realize it.

How can diaper changes be enjoyable?  Well, I change diaper time into special ‘close’ time with my kids.  Diaper changes with my 3 year old have turned from “yeck, I can’t believe I’m still changing diapers for children after 7 years” to special time.  I create silly names for my daughter when I’m changing her, then use those silly names to make the time more enjoyable.  For example, my 3 year old I call “boomba”, so I call her variants of that (“boomp boomp”, “boompa”), and I have even heard songs that have similar beats that I then make into her “theme song”.  This makes diaper changes fun and positive instead of dwelling on how, after two full cycles around the sun, my daughter could still need me to give her a wipe.  Focus on the person, and how you can enjoy that person, instead of on how “unfair” it is, or whatever.

I tend to also do silly things to my kids and tickle during diaper changes (after all, most of their pee has already been discharged by the time you’re changing the little squirt 😉  Being a guy, I also talk to my 1 month old son in a way that pokes fun at bodily fluids.  This helps me keep a diaper change in the proper perspective – having a light-hearted, servant heart toward my children.

Helpful?  Would love to hear in comments how you have learned to enjoy diaper times!

3. Expect to have to be flexible

As an extension to learning to give up on your ambitions…  { insert 7 hour break brought on by children needing me to cook breakfast }  Hmm, where was I..

Ah yes, expect to be

{ insert another 27 day break, the kids are at the grandparents now and I have time to continue writing }

Maybe now I’ll finish?  Ha!  What a great place to be interrupted and not have margin to finish this article.  I will work on this as the Lord allows, with open hands working on side projects as the Lord provides margin and energy for them.

The caution here: if you are not flexible in your desires and goals, then there will constantly be friction between your children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs and your desires.  If you “throw all to the wind” and focus on their hearts and the awesome challenge God has given you by giving you children, I trust that you will be more emotionally healthy as a family.  It is hard work.  It requires consistent replenishment.

4. It’s your responsibility to find ways to replenish yourself

As a caretaker, YES – you need to “take care of yourself”.  You need to “fill your passion bucket”, as Bill Hybels puts it.  So, what are ways you can be replenished?  Perhaps seeking out a godly older mentor?  Perhaps taking an early morning walk to commune with God and enjoy quiet?  If you just can’t catch a break to do anything on your own, try out a “divide and conquer” strategy.  Your spouse take some kids, you take some kids and have some special “date time”.  Nearly always this ends up with smiles on everyone’s faces in our house, whereas “yet another night at home” without a vision for an enjoyable evening can tend to make us wear on each other in less than desirable ways.

As a leader in your family, it is up to you to work on replenishing yourself.  You cannot wait until others decide it is their ministry to replenish you.  You must be seeking this out constantly, constantly “topping off”, as the demands of your children’s needs continue.  You must be aware of God’s plans for replenishment (communion with Him, community living, service) and Satan’s plan for discouragement (deceptive lies, television, Facebook “comparison mind games”, self centeredness).  Expect a battle in your heart on these areas, and be prepared by putting on God’s full armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

 

These may seem like contradictory points.  How does replenishing yourself match up with my advice to get over your self?  True replenishment is found in God.  Thus, taking care of yourself is akin to letting God love on you.

He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30, ESV

When He increases in our life, we find fruits of the Spirit abound.  We “abide” in Him – see John 15.  His love wraps us, if we invite it and let God do His work in our life.

When we increase (our self life), we find it harder to have joy, peace and love with our children.  We focus on our self life, our goals, and don’t let God replace His goals.

 

I will end on this:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.  Malachi 2:15, ESV

The child bearing and rearing years will not last forever.  Or so I am told, ha!  My wife and I have not yet reached the days past changing diapers in 9 years of marriage, with our first child being born 12 months in to marriage.  Ecclesiastes speaks of different seasons – so work through this season strongly.  Be brave.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  Proverbs 24:10

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