All the ways that kids humble you
Dan and I are recovering from what seems to be our thirteenth cold this winter (in all seriousness, I think it's the fifth, but I swear we have been sick more days this season than we have been well), and it has made me think about all the ways our lives have changed with young children in the house. Sure, many of the cliches are true--there are more messes and spills, more silliness, more laughter, more poop--but those things that people do not talk about have caught me by surprise.
Your child will always find the zit on your face, and earnestly and loudly ask, in a very public place, "Mommy, what's that red thing on your chin?"
They share every, and I mean every, germ they pick up in school (Oh, did I already mention this one? Can you tell I am just a tid bitter?). You thought your immune system was strong because you were so healthy? fit? fill in the blank here? Nope. It was because you didn't have young children in the house.
They pull the most profound statements out of thin air. From a preschool Sunday School goer: "No one can actually see themselves. In a mirror, it is just a reflection." From my five-year-old: "The earth is made of molten lava." (close, so close!)
They sense so much of what is beneath the surface. That fight you and your spouse are suppressing? They have already sensed the tension. The way you raise your voice and storm out of the room? Noted, and filed away to copy soon. Modeling works both ways...unfortunately.
They point out every speck of dirt in the house. Or is that just my daughter? I've enlisted her help to clean that dust she is so intent on announcing.
They encourage ridiculous behavior in us grown-ups. Oh, the dances we will do for a bite of food, and the faces we will make for a smile!
I could continue with the snark, but my big, deep thought for today has to do with sin and righteousness. Are you still reading? There are moments when I stare out our five-month-old and five-year-old and wonder how such unspoiled tenderness and generosity erupt from such tiny beings--the laughter and joy the baby gives so freely to anyone willing to take a moment to give him a smile or a word (as long as he has had enough sleep, anyway) and the willingness of our school-aged daughter to give toys and special trinkets to her classmates who are sad or just because. And there are moments when I do see some of the worst of humanity distilled into a fifteen pound package--in tantrums and impatience, in selfishness and self-centeredness, in utter lack of remorse.
Of course, many of these traits having to do with empathy, we have learned, need to be taught. We, as the parents and caretakers, have the responsibility to form these tiny humans into responsible, independent citizens.
Yet, who is teaching whom, I sometimes wonder. Make no mistake: we, the adults, are in charge, but my children wake me up to the reality of God's grace every day. Somehow, in their simple worlds, it shows up more clearly. I see promise in humanity--the beauty of God's good creation, when kindness and hope and love come into play--and the places we fall short and forget that we are but one in a much bigger picture, and it is not all up to us.
I can distract myself all the day long if left to my own devices, but five minutes with my children reminds me of how unnecessarily complicated the grown-ups make life, and how basic it all is.
But I'd gladly take this wisdom without the coughs and runny noses, okay?