Psalm 127 stood out for me a couple of weeks ago, particularly this portion:
Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them. (127:3-5a, TNIV)
There are moments when I am overcome by the beauty of my children, the wonder of their existence–the brightness in their eyes, their smiles and laughter, their little growing bodies, their clever minds. In these moments I am sometimes brought even to tears because I am overwhelmed with love and pride and wonder and all sorts of things.
But the truth is, those moments are not the norm. Unfortunately and shamefully, I often behave and feel as if my children are a nuisance, getting in the way of the things I want to do, wasting my time, which could be used on things I find more fulfilling. Thankfully, I am quite self-aware in this respect–sometimes I even apologize to my children when I have said or done something wrong; often I feel terrible guilt and regret at the mistakes I have made (sometimes also to the point of tears).
Even with this awareness, however, some days it remains a struggle against my deep selfishness and bad priorities. Some days I set my selfishness aside and we will play hide and seek or tickle or a combination of both and we’ll run around the trailer laughing and screaming or we’ll go outside for an hour or two for an adventure. A couple of weeks ago I even made up a treasure hunt (“three drops of river water; three rotten tomatoes; a grey brick; etc.”). Other days, the victory against selfishness is much smaller and all I can manage is to lay down on the floor with them in passive, semi-attentiveness for a couple of minutes. Other days I manage to do nothing.
I realize that we live in an age of “helicopter parenting” and child psychology where we are almost guilted into doing everything to make our children well-adjusted, and I can’t help but wonder if this over-attentiveness may just make them maladjusted in a different way. Sometimes I imagine the world a century or two ago–did parents worry about spending enough “quality time” with their kids? Were the children or the parent-child relationship any worse off?
I don’t know. Yet I feel I can be a better parent–if only because some days the things which are not important in any imaginable way get priority over my children, and no matter how anti-helicopter-parenting you may be, that can’t be right.
The first half of this Psalm probably has some useful things to say about this as well (“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain…”), but for now I focus on the second half.
May I gratefully receive and enjoy the blessing of my children.