One of my dearest life-time friends, Sarah, is about to give birth this week to her third baby. Three world changing children known as Emma, Ethan and little no-name boy. (Sarah and Mike have sworn this new little baby boy’s name to great secrecy. She won’t even tell me! Imagine that!!) Three new little lives in just barely over 4 years.
Sarah is one of my heroines.
Because of Sarah, I have been thinking about those years when my house was an absolute mess and yet my heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude and love. I have been remembering the years when the laundry never ended, dirty dishes filled the sink and peanut butter and jelly crusts were all I ever ate for lunch.
Do you remember those days? After my third baby was born, I counted it a successful day if I was out of my pajamas by 4 p.m. I realized during those never-ending, noisy years that a long soak in a bubble bath was in some ways better than a trip to Hawaii.
In honor of Sarah and all of those other brave young moms who have chosen to walk the very brave road of large families, here is some advice from the heart of a mom who gave birth to 5 and wishes that she could do it all over again!
1 – Read books to your children.
Start reading to them from the day you bring them home from the hospital. Read “Pat the Bunny”, “I’ll Love You Forever”, “Good Night, Moon”, and the Bible. Even though they may not understand the meaning of the words … they will understand the love and cadence in your voice. As they grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers, read “The Little Engine that Could”, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, “Amelia Bedelia” and the Bible.
When they are school age and beginning to read on their own, continue to make family story time a well-loved tradition and read to them. Read “Caddie Woodlawn”, “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Tom Sawyer” and the Bible.
At every age and every stage, read them biographies of men and women who weren’t afraid to dream big dreams and to live a life of resounding importance. Read them the biographies of missionaries, athletes, scientists and musicians.
And … at every age and every stage … read them the Bible. A child can never read too many books.
2 – Play music in your home.
Start playing music to them from the day that you bring them home from the hospital. Play the classics of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin. Play the great hymns of the faith that thousands have sung before this little life ever began. Play worship music that is impacting this generation. Play the worship music that impacted your early years. Play the worship music that impacted your parents and grandparents. Play Broadway Show tunes and musicals. Play your favorite music. A child can never listen to too much music.
3 – Hold your babies.
You never spoil a baby with love. Rock them and sing to them. Quote the word over them as you quiet them in the middle of the night. It is no small thing to be given a gift from heaven … treat your tiny blessing with heavenly care. Also … may I just say … never underestimate the impact that holding and rocking our babies will have during the teen-age years. But I will get to that later. Trust me when I say you can never hold a baby too much.
4 – Make a list of priorities. What matters the most to you?
A clean house or 3 home-cooked, gourmet meals every day? Going for a jog or reading a book all by yourself in the evening? Laundry that is done timely and folded when it comes out of the dryer or a beautiful garden outside your windows?
You can’t do it all … so set your priorities and stick to them.
Don’t ever feel guilty about everything that you aren’t able to do during this season but know that you are doing the most important things in life.
I remember one day when my highly successful, beautifully dressed mother walked into my zoo of a house filled with children. There were toys everywhere, the floor was sticky and the dishes hadn’t been done in days. That’s right … I said, “days”. I was sitting in the middle of the family room floor reading books to my three boys when she walked in. I looked at her and said, “Mom, I am so sorry that my house looks like this.” She sat down on the couch, started folding the mountain of laundry and said, “That’s o.k., honey, you are doing the important things in life.”
At the end of every long, busy day, remind yourself, “That’s o.k., Sarah, you are doing the important things in life.”
Your children can never have too much of you. You are all that matters to them.
5 – Make sure that there is a lot of laughter in your home.
Serve green mashed potatoes on St. Patricks Day. Serve hamburgers for breakfast and french toast for supper on April Fool’s Day. Read a joke every night at the dinner table. Bennet Cerf’s Book of Riddles was always our favorite.
Blow bubbles in the summertime and catch them on the tip of your nose. Giggle together over the simple, delightful things in life. Don’t make your home such a serious place that it lacks the healing power of joy and gladness. There can never be too much laughter in a home!
6 – Teach your children to pray.
Teach your little ones that God really does listen when one of His children talks to Him. Teach your babies that there is nothing too small to talk to God about. You can ask Him to heal your pets, give you a friend, help Daddy at work and help sister with her homework.
When you teach your children to pray, also teach them to trust God with the outcome. Let them know that God is loving and good and kind and we can trust our frail lives in His trust-worthy hands. Teach your children that sometimes God says, “No,” … sometimes He says, “Yes,” … and sometimes He says, “Have patience.”
A child can never pray too much, ask God for too much or trust enough!
7 – Teach your children to dream.
Teach your children to imagine and to dream! Encourage their little imaginations to go vagabond as they conjure up days of safaris and castles and expeditions into outer space. Talk to their imaginary friends as if they were truly a part of your family. What fun! If you can cultivate a culture of dreams when they are little … then … when they are grown … they will refuse to limit themselves with mediocrity. Say things to them like,
“If you can’t do it … no one can do it!”
“I believe in you!”
“God has great plans for your life!”
“You are here for purpose and destiny!”
“You are an Esther … a David … a Paul … a Moses … a Deborah!”
When they are grown, your children will know that they had a mom who believed in them then … and now. A child can never have too many dreams.
8 – Know that the investment you are making today will reap a harvest of blessings and solid relationship in the future.
Do you want to know what I believe, Sarah?
I believe that when you hold your babies during these busy, frazzled, too-muchto-do, I-need-some-time-to-myself, would-everybody-please-leave-me-alone-and-let-mesleep-years … that you are planting a lovely garden of relationship with this little one that will be harvested during the teen and young adult years.
When a mom holds a baby, it layers the baby’s life with a security that can be developed in no other way. When a mom holds a toddler, it chases away unreasonable fears and builds a foundation of trust that no teen-age hormones can erode. When a mom snuggles with an infant, for no other reason than just because I love you and want you, it builds a garrison of strength around that baby’s heart that no weapon of the culture can penetrate.
So as you hold little “what’s his name”, Sarah, know that someday he will grow up. You only have 18 short years with him.
18 summers … 18 birthday cakes … 18 Christmas Eves that will fly away in a mere blink of time. Read to him … sing to him … prioritize him … laugh with him … pray with Him … dream with him … hold him.
Sarah … read him the Bible and … please … give him a great name! :)
UPDATE – July 28, 2013