Are you tired of wiping snotty noses, again and again and again? Feel like your day’s spent running in circles with nothing to show for it except a mound of laundry (which was folded, until little Jimmy tumbled through the pile) and a stack of dirty dishes that have been washed and soiled three times already? You glance out the window to watch Mrs. Henderson walk to her car, three perfectly groomed kids in toe. Unlike you, her clothes aren’t covered in baby drool and her hair doesn’t have globs of baby cereal in it. No, she’s presentable. Respectable. Important.
“Momma, play with me?” Jimmy holds a half-chewed Thomas the Tank Engine, eyes shining.
You glance one last time at the leather briefcase in Mrs. Henderson’s hand–undoubtedly filled with very important papers, before settling yourself on the carpet.
The baby giggles and makes a beeline across the floor, while Jimmy plunks in your lap, book in hand. Your coffee cup grows cold on a nearby end table next to a stack of magazines you intend to read…eventually. As soon as you’re done reading Turbo and the Ice-Mountain Caper, for the twentieth time.
So why do you do it? Why do you surround yourself with Barbies and coloring books all day?
Because despite your temporary frustration, you know this is the most important job you’ll ever have.
During infancy, as you are holding your baby, you aren’t just keeping the peace. Every time you attend to your baby’s needs, you are strengthening their ability to trust. During the first few years, your child is learning whether or not the world is safe and if significant others can be depended on. Many say a child’s self-concept is developed by the time they are five, and their overall world view cemented by the time they are twelve. Wow, those are some important early years!
Our daughter is thirteen and we are reaping the blessings (and at times, consequences) of what we did during the early years. In her mind, there are certain non-negotiables, and it often surprises me to hear her speak. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she is largely a product of Steve and I–and every other adult that poured into her life during her formative years.
We’ve all heard the verse, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
When our daughter was young, I clung to that verse. Now that she’s thirteen, I often cringe. There’s nothing quite so humbling as seeing your greatest weaknesses displayed in your child. But I’ve never for a moment regretted the time I spent with her when she was young. If anything, I wish I’d been even more intentional.
Five years ago, (four days before her eighth birthday) she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior. We were living in Louisiana at the time. Steve and I automatically assumed she’d want to be baptized there. But no, our daughter wanted to go back to California, where we had previously lived. Why? She wanted Miss Paula to be there. And she wouldn’t be dissuaded.
I tried to convince her how illogical that was. Three plain tickets? Or, more accurately, a 24 hour drive? Seriously, couldn’t she just send a card or something? Call Miss Paula on the phone? But she was adamant, so I finally gave in. And I’m so glad I did. In the end, our daughter got to spend one of the most important moments in her life with those who had made the greatest impact on her.
Even today, she frequently talks about “Miss Paula” and a few other women who took the time to get involved in her life. And as I listen to her share memories of songs they sang or games they played, I can’t help but wonder, how many of her kindergarden and first grade Sunday school teachers felt insignificant–like little more than glorified baby sitters? But God knew. He was looking down from heaven watching those tiny seedlings of faith begin to spout–seedlings that wouldn’t reach full maturation until years later.
Ah, but what a beautiful sight it was when that little seed of faith blossomed. And now, it’s rooted in her heart forever.
Thanks, Miss Paula, for taking the time to wipe a snotty nose or two, and share the love of Jesus with our baby-girl.