I’ve heard it said that the most difficult number of children to have is four. After the fifth baby comes along, things are supposed to become easier, partly due to the fact that the oldest children are more capable of helping around the house. I wasn’t sure how this would play itself out in our home, as I’ve never really enforced “chores” to any great extent. The older children do help with the kitchen responsibilities (sweeping, wiping the table, loading the dishwasher, etc.) but most moms I know are much more diligent in this area than I am. Lately, though, my life has been getting easier in ways I wouldn’t have imagined, and certainly never planned. Bunchkin and Bundle are both volunteering to do more around the house in a sincere desire to help, and Bunchkin is taking on the role of second Mommy to her younger siblings. She’s volunteering to change diapers and help get her younger brothers dressed, and she’s taking on a more authoritarian role with the other children.
Tuesday, while I was at the grocery, Daddy was resting while the boys were napping and when they woke up, Bunchkin ushered everyone into the baby’s room and directed them in quiet play. The baby stayed safely in his crib, entertained by his older siblings, and Daddy got to rest a while longer. On Wednesday, I woke up feeling very badly so after I put the baby down for his first nap, I laid down on the couch. While I was napping, Bunchkin and Bundle finished up the laundry that I had sitting on the fireplace and later, after the baby and I woke up, Bunchkin went to the back of the house to clean up all of the bedrooms. Today, Bunchkin decided to dust and make the beds. I never asked her to do any of this; these were things that she wanted to do to help her daddy and I.
I’ve been pondering this lately, wondering what it is I’ve done to bring up such helpful children (because whatever it was, I certainly want to repeat it with the other three!) I don’t think it happened due to bible study or prayer and it certainly never happened because of my incredible parenting skills. I think, more than anything, I have the advice of a Godly mother of nine to thank, who once shared with me the idea that children want to please their moms and dads. Children are not burdens or interruptions to our daily lives, and they’re not problems that need to be “fixed.” Instead, if we’ll allow them to be, they can be helpers and partners with us in our day-to-day lives.
Several months ago, when I sat Bunchkin down to explain to her some ways that she could be more loving and serving, I did so under the premise that this was something she would want to do, if she knew it was important to Mommy. I didn’t have to get theological and tell her that this is “what Jesus would do” and I didn’t have to give her any rules to follow. I simply explained that this was something I wanted her to do, and trusted her desire to help. This experience is helping me to recognize that this is something I need to do more often. How many times do I simply lay down rules for my children, without ever giving them the opportunity to serve on their own? How often do I break up an argument without explaining to them ways in which they can treat each other with more kindness? I’m not saying that rules are bad, or that everything deserves an explanation, but trusting in their desire to please isn’t always my first response in my interactions with my children, and I think it should be.
I’ll leave myself (and you) with that thought for tonight. Tomorrow, I plan to spend some much-needed quality time with my children and prepare for the Sabbath. I hope you all have a blessed weekend and a restful Shabbat!