19 January 2008

Questions Answered: Children

You might want to grab a cup of coffee for this one--it's a marathon! (If you're completely in the dark about this, go here and then here first.)

The Children

Connie wants to know how we chose our children's names. Caiden's first name came from the name "Aiden," but we wanted him to have the same initials as his daddy, so we tacked a "C" on the front of it. We'd never heard the name before and thought we were very clever for inventing it. The next year, five other Cadens were dedicated. So much for originality! On the upside, I've still never seen it spelled the way we do. (Interestingly, I've seen that it means "spontaneous/exuberant." We nailed that one!) Grayson's name was next to another name in the baby name book I liked, but Chris didn't. We both saw the name Grayson and liked it right away, but it was in the running with two other names until I was about 8 months pregnant. It means "quiet one," which is perfect for Grayson. And Addison is named after Elisabeth Elliot's second husband, who died shortly after they married. I read an essay she wrote called "In a Hospital Waiting Room" and loved it tremendously, hence the name. (Ironically, it was one of the three we were considering for Grayson.), and her middle name is, of course, Elisabeth. My dear friend Erin told Elisabeth and her husband Lars that sometime last year, and they were both tickled to know somebody was named after both Addison and Elisabeth. They said that was a first, as far as they knew! Elisabeth even sent Addie a book, and she wrote a note for her in the front cover, and I hope Addie treasures it someday like I do!

Speaking of having children, Alicia wants to know what I wish I had known before having them. I was a middle school teacher before I had Caiden, and I wish I had known the fierceness of a mother's love, particularly for her son, back then. I would've understood the crazy moms I had to deal with! A mother's love can make you do some crazy things, if you feel like your child is being picked on/misunderstood, etc. I also would've liked to know that recovery from having your first child is The Pits, but it's temporary. I thought I was going to die. It would've also been helpful to know to keep the diaper over the baby's bottom while changing it, because a newborn has good aim, and that new bedding I bought just a year earlier was never the same.

Polly wants to know the biggest challenge of having children. Polly, I can honestly say that changes, sometimes daily! For a long time, it was the lack of sleep. And as I didn't have any friends with children, life as a student pastor's wife changed dramatically because I couldn't do most of the things I used to do with the students and with the other guys' wives and girlfriends. I missed out a lot, and I was terribly lonely. I was the biggest advocate for all of them getting married and having babies! And now there are so many children between us that we still can't get together, because it's insane! But good. :)

Now life is very challenging, because we have three children, which is a world different from one or even two. Fullheartandhands Mama asked about having the third child, and if it's as hard as she's heard. She mentioned "dying to self," and as much as I'd like to lie and say no, it's not much harder than having two, I can't. Some well-meaning person told me, when I was pregnant with my third, that if I thought having two was hard, then having three wouldn't be as difficult. HA! No, it wasn't terribly hard the first few months, despite going through a couple surgeries and trauma in general with Addie, but once she started to move, all went downhill. Good grief, it's hard! I can't keep up with the messes, the discipline, the need to eat, the need to wear clean clothes and clean diapers, and the allure of sticking things in outlets. I'm in WAY over my head.

However, and this is a big caveat, I had two things going against me: I had three children in 4 1/2 years, with the last two only 19 months apart. I had two babies in cribs, and still have two in diapers. That'll tax even the most laid-back of women. On top of that, I have two boys, and Addison is pretty active herself. So having three might not be so hard if you spread them out more. I have two other friends who've had their third child in the past year, and they heartily agree with me: It's hard, but it's worth it. I LOVE having three children and am sometimes tempted to have a fourth, so Addison could have a shot at having a sister. (Does that answer your question, Jenny?) But probably not.

Kiersten, a college student, asked if life will be as stressful for her once she's a wife and mother. Kiersten, even if you don't enjoy the stage of life you're in right now, it's preparing you for the next one. If you were to jump from being a single college student today to being a wife and mother tomorrow, you'd want to jump right back into your life! College, while it has many stresses of its own, doesn't compare to the lifelong pressures of growing a marriage and raising children. If you fail a test or a course, there's a second shot, in most cases. But if you fail in your marriage or with your children, the implications are life-long. So take what God is teaching you right now, about commitment and perseverance, and you will fare better later on. And yes, your experience babysitting will serve you well as a mother, particularly with babies, but it also can't compare to the real thing. Once you're a mother, you can't give the child back at the end of the evening! Fortunately, God will provide you with the skills necessary when your time comes! I think if you can deal well with the stress in your life right now, it will help you cope with the particular stresses of each stage of life, especially the ones that come when you're a new mother! Great question :)

Tara Lee said she sometimes feels inadequate to be her children's mother. Ooh, I'm so glad to hear somebody else say that! On some days, particularly when I'm sick or tired or overwhelmed, I think of all the responsibilities I have as a mother and want to run away! Think of it: feed them nutritious food, keep them clean and healthy, provide opportunities for growth and education and imagination, teach them to share and be responsible and not to burp at the table, read to them, sing to them, take care of them when they're sick, keep them from falling off monkey bars and bunk beds and trampolines, and on and on and on! And that's just the surface things. When I consider that I'm responsible for their childhood memories, what enters their minds and hearts at a young age, their viewpoint of different races, religions, people with special needs, people who look different physically than we do, and everything else a mature adult already knows, I'm bowed over. Being a mom is harder than I ever imagined! And I have so many faults and flaws that it's scary God has entrusted three children to me. What if I ruin them?

So here's what I do with all of that: I sit down, preferably at Chili's, once or twice a year and make goals for my kids. Having a plan makes me feel better. After that, I just go day to day, trying to make sure everybody's clean, fed, and happy at the end of the day, keeping in mind our overall goal in the back of my mind. I figure that if my kids have a healthy, happy, mostly laid-back mom, everything else, like my flaws and forgotten best-intentions, will carry less weight. Does that make sense? I realize that's not the most "spiritual" answer, Tara Lee, and I'd encourage you to look for verses in Scripture that point out the fact that we are "good enough" with God's grace. Those verses, combined with an overall plan for your family, and a lot of grace extended to yourself, should help!

All right, last one for today. (Are you still here?) Bella asked about our babysitter. I have been deeply blessed by Kristina, one of our former students in our church's student ministry. She started babysitting once a week at night for us when Caiden was little. Then we had Grayson, and she continued. By the time she graduated from high school, we'd had Addison, and Kristina committed to watching the kids on Mondays when I went to MomTime at Lisa Whelchel's house. Now we've moved our MomTimes to evenings, so Kristina still comes to watch the kids once a week while I run errands and eat lunch all by myself. In this area, a babysitter for more than one child can expect about $10 an hour, and I pay her for anywhere between two and four hours. It is expensive, but she's worth it. (But we don't have a housecleaning service, and my kids don't go to preschool, so I don't mind shelling out the money in exchange for an afternoon of reprieve once a week!) The kids don't watch TV while she's here--instead, she plays with them outside, colors and plays Play-doh, and makes cookies with them. They love her, and she loves them, and I am aware of what a great deal this is! I realize this is not something everyone can do, and that someone like Kristina is hard to find.

All right, that's all I can manage for one sitting. My legs are numb, the house is a wreck, and the coffee's cold. Time to get moving! (And if you're still here, kudos to you!!) I promise not to skip anybody's question, so if yours isn't here, hang on!

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