“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
My daughter and daughter-in-law introduced me to Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovic. It’s a book for moms with little kids. My kids are not little anymore. In fact, in less than three weeks, I will be a retired homeschooling mother (ready and waiting to take on the new duties of homeschooling grandmother).
But I loved this book. I actually had my flashlight out, reading it in bed after the lights were out, I was enjoying it so much. Eventually, we’ll post a review of it here on the blog (as soon as Johanna or Katelyn manages to find enough time around their little ones to write the review for us), so I will resist the urge to tell you why every mama with little children should read it. But I do want to share a quote from it today. Speaking about having several young children (she had 5 children ages 5 and under when she wrote the book!), Rachel says:
“Another way that we try to counteract the bulk effect and treat our children as individuals is simply by realizing that it is not their fault that there are so many of them…Dry erase boards and chore charts are all well and good, but they do not change the fact that what you have on your hands is children, not an organizational problem. When Scripture says to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is not talking about finding the most effective way to organize them…Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge.”
I love her insight. It is so easy to get caught up in the logistics of feeding, clothing, and cleaning a bunch of children; we can sometimes forget that we are caring for precious souls that need loving more than organizing.
To truly “pastor” our children, we need to spend time with them. We often need to stop, sit down, and listen. We need to open their bedroom door, plop down on the bed, and ask a few friendly questions. We need to make a mess in the kitchen together, play a game while the others nap, snuggle on the sofa together with a good book, and ignore what our to-do list says we “should” be doing. This is our most important work.
Here’s a challenge for the next few days:
Perhaps you already do this, but if you don’t, commit to giving at least fifteen minutes of individual time to each child. Ask God to help you think of ways to do this. What will you do? When will you do it? What will the rest of the family do while you spend this time together? Be alert, too, for spontaneous unplanned opportunities when the child obviously would like your time and attention. Take advantage of those opportunities to tell him he’s more important to you than your tasks. Put the dishcloth in the sink, pull up a chair, and listen while he talks. Use those fifteen minutes to get to know that child better.
Here are some ideas to get you started (these are addressed to mothers, but dads could obviously do the same thing):
- Work on a project together – drawing, sewing, model airplanes, shooting baskets, making cookies, etc.
- Go for a walk together. Take a treat along, or take your cameras.
- Save an errand to do when you can leave most of the children home with Daddy. Then take just one child along with you, and include a treat as part of the outing.
- Eat dinner with the family, and then take just one child out for ice cream afterwards while the rest of the family enjoys a special treat at home with Daddy.
- While everyone else rests, pull a blanket over some chairs and have a naptime campout in the living room.
- Play a game together while Daddy keeps the rest of the gang busy.
- Read a book together.
- Teach him or her a new skill. Take the training wheels off the bike and run down the street alongside your novice biker. Show her how to embroider or knit. Coach her as she makes a batch of biscuits for dinner.
Share what you are planning to do, or tell us what you did do! It’s good to encourage each other, and to “provoke one another to love and good works.” Investing time in our children is good work. Let us know how it goes!