We need hamburger buns and chips. So I gather the herd and buckle seatbelts and booster seats and turn on the rear DVD and we go. We arrive at our destination and I hold hands and look both ways and finally, finally, we’re there.
We’ve made it to the grocery store.
And then it happens. Two little voices beg and plead and make their cases for wielding those tiny mini carts that are only meant for disaster.
And I say yes.
The shopping trip that would have taken five minutes by myself and 10 minutes with the kids in the cart now takes half an hour, with mama playing defense, attempting to direct and navigate two very crazy drivers constantly trying to sneak marshmallows and Pringles into their carts.
My two-year-old swerves into the produce, almost knocking over a woman from church. I stumble over myself and stutter out an apology, while eyeballing the next aisle where my preschooler has ventured off.
“Honey,” she says with a smile as she grabs some green beans. “This is wonderful. And you know what? It takes a village.”
She redirects my two-year-old and I take a deep breath and in the chaos, I realize something. This is good. Here, in our small town grocery store, I’m experiencing something holy and true and real.
When we find those opportunities to say yes to our children — to acknowledge them and enter into their little hearts and minds, we’re creating space for love to take root. Our littles might not remember the specific times mama let them take the reigns on those red little carts, but they’ll know they felt valued and loved.
As we look to summer vacation, we can exhale and realize that we’re all in this together. We don’t have to worry about perfect — we just have to focus on present.
Nobody has the energy to play cruise director 24/7 for a crew of kids. Thankfully, that’s not our role as parents. We just get to be there.
We get to enter into their stories and do the holy work of rubbing sunscreen into little noses and shaking sand out of little shoes. We get to enter into the mess, because the mess is beautiful — and holy.
As school wraps up, we have the tendencies to look at our calendars and wonder, How are we going to survive summer?
I think we need to flip the script. When we realize that this act of parenthood is a holy endeavor, that we get to have the privilege of shaping and molding lives to enter into the world? Life suddenly gets a little more interesting and a little less exhausting.
When we love our children, even in small ways, we’re creating space for them to believe that they are well-loved by God.
“Hand in hand, parent and child can explore the surprising, tender, restoring love of God, beyond the borders of self,” write Mark and Jan Foreman in Never Say No: Raising Big Picture Kids. “We are necessary parts in a redemptive story bigger than ourselves, to be the face of God to the person next to us.”
Our kids aren’t interested in Pinterest-worthy crafts or 100,000 sports camps. What they’re interested in is seeing us delight in the ways that God made our children exactly who they are. They’re interested in seeing how we react when they accidentally knock over the apple juice for the fourth time in a row. They’re interested in when we put down the phone and say, “Yes, I’ll throw the ball around with you. That email can wait.”
As parents, we have the profound joy of delighting in our children — modeling the posture of the Living God who delights in lavishing grace upon his children.
“If God truly enjoys us, then our delight in our children can mirror heaven’s. We can actively share in their joy each day, step by step, or choose to be absent from their lives except for great accomplishments. Just as Jesus fully entered our human experience, we parents can jump into our children’s wonder-filled world,” Mark and Jan Foreman, Never Say No.
Our Father in Heaven delights in His children. He loves us with an everlasting love. And you know what that means? He actually enjoys us. He perfectly desires to enter into our lives.
In Zephaniah 3:17, the prophet writes, “He will take great delight in you rejoice over you with singing.”
So, how do we model that in the hazy days of summer? What do we do when the days get long and the children get sunburned and the laundry piles up? How do we reflect Christ’s wide and long and high and deep love in the daily acts of parenting?
- We invest. We must be intentional about entering into our children’s space. “We must at times leave behind our serious adult business and jump into the fun sensibility of being a child in their time and space. Not to be childish, but childlike in the wonder, honesty, and ability to play. When we cross this border from adult to child, it communicates loudly that we are interested in them,” Never Say No.
- We delight. Finding joy in the little lives entrusted to us is easy in the big moments, but challenging in minutia of the everyday. First, we must accept the grace God pours into our own lives, so we can give it away to our children.
- We empower. We can build up or tear-down our children in the way we react to life’s big and little challenges. Love is costly, but the price for losing touch with our little ones is high. “It’s not just about what our kids do but who they are, or will become. What qualities are being nurtured in the heart? Our kids have brilliant ideas and the resources to move adult-size mountains. They want to seem themselves in the larger adventure. Every kid wants to matter,” Never Say No.
- We connect. Know your child’s love language. Part of parenting well is knowing how your child receives love. Do they thrive on quality time? Connect through cuddles? How to Really Love Your Child by D. Ross Campbell helps us understand how to fill our littles’ love tanks.
- We explore. Parenting is an adventure. “Like our desire for our children to be comfortable in the water, we want our children to be comfortable in the skin God gave them. We want them to confidently explore their purpose in a vast world. This is how God’s big plan can transport our children to face the unfamiliar with courage,” Never Say No.
- We say yes. “Be available to accept your child’s invitations…God is one big yes for us, and we want to pay it forward to our own kids,” Never Say No.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but we don’t have to do it alone. Loving our children is a beautiful, holy work, and we get to enter into the redemptive story with the Creator of all things.
This summer, take heart, take a deep breath, and say yes.
Come back to iAt throughout this week to read more about how you can make this summer more than just one to survive with your kids.
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Kayla, I love what you have to say here! I am a planner and have “plan summer” on my to-do list this week. I look toward the end of the school year as the end of peaceful days and my small bits of down time while the baby naps. Your piece helps me shift my focus. This especially: “When we find those opportunities to say yes to our children — to acknowledge them and enter into their little hearts and minds, we’re creating space for love to take root.”