While I no longer consider my 7 kids to be a “reward” from God for my many years of faithful service to Him ~ I emphatically DO still believe that each and every one of them are undeniably a blessing.
We’re halfway through the summer, and part of the reason that I’ve slowed down considerably on the number of postings to the blog is that the kids have been home and they’re keeping me occupied. We’ve been having quite a lot of fun together ~ which is something that I didn’t get to experience as much as I’d have liked to back when I was completely drained from perpetual pregnancies and childbearing.
These days, I am thoroughly enjoying my “blessings” ~ they are far from perfect as they’ve gone from passive, obedient little robots (a couple of them were more like zombies ~ and, Chassé ~ my “spirited” child ~ really reminded me of a jack-in-the-box gone bonkers ~ no matter how many times she was stuffed into the box and the lid slammed down on her, she had this quirky way of popping back up with a crazy, intimidating, you-can’t-get-rid-of-me smirk) ~ to “normal” kids with their own unique personalities, feelings, thoughts ~ and … every single one of them now has this idea in their heads that their particular experience and perceptions of life matter.
I say they are “far from perfect” ~ but actually, they’re very good kids ~ not Duggar-like with neat, matching outfits, always helpful and obedient and smiling ~ they are taking full advantage of their new freedom to discover themselves which means that they don’t always say, “Yes, Mom” ~ and they’re pretty likely to disagree with me and not one of them still believes that I know everything and have all the answers.
When I was reading Above Rubies, I would have been utterly mortified if one of my kids back-talked me, didn’t immediately jump when I told them to do something, made a complete mess and left it for someone else (me) to clean up, picked on a younger sibling, cussed out the older sibling for picking on them, stayed up past midnight playing video games, took food in their bedrooms or ate half a dozen popsicles without asking, disobeyed me, ignored me, got right in my face and yelled at me. Wow ~ children like that would be no blessing at all, huh?
(This is not to say that none of my kids did any of these “bad things” Q.D. ~ but mostly they behaved and when they didn’t, they weren’t so blatant in their disobedience ~ so we at least had the appearance of well-behaved children.)
Actually, I’m finding out that my less-than-perfect kids truly are a blessing ~ and the blessing is in their individuality, their free-thinking, their freedom to stand up for their own personhood.
In a recent radio interview for Interfaith Voices, I described my kids these days as “zombies coming alive.” It can be a little scary ~ there’s a lot of “doing their own thing” ~ a lot of experimenting with ideas and activities which previously, they’d never even heard of, let alone seriously considered (more than one of them is currently wondering if they might be gay or bisexual) ~ a lot of anger ~ and sometimes that anger is directed at me.
I told a little story during that interview which was cut out due to lack of time ~ I’ve shared this over on the forum already, but I would also like to include it here:
When I put my kids in school, I was especially worried about my then-10 year old Andrew. He was so far behind academically ~ plus, he was so angry because after Angel left home, he became the main focus of Warren’s abuse. He was so beaten down and dispirited that he would scurry about the house like a mouse ~ trying to stay off of his father’s radar because as soon as Warren noticed Andrew, he’d spend hours lecturing and preaching to him until the poor boy was in tears. I remember many, many nights when I would lay in bed and think to myself that Andrew had not spoken a single word all day.
So when I talked to the elementary school principal, I expressed my concern, “I’m afraid Andrew will go to school and beat everyone up.”
Well ~ it didn’t turn out anything like what I imagined. Although Andrew was the most fearful and reluctant of all the kids when we talked about public school ~ he is now totally loving it.
I think the key factor in how well he’s doing was his teacher ~ she is amazing ~ absolutely “pro-Andrew” and that made all the difference for him. At the second parent-teacher conference, Andrew’s teacher was beaming with pride as she told me how Andrew was excelling in every area ~ academically and socially. She told me that at the beginning of the year, they were struggling to get him to write the “d” in his name rather than a “b” ~ but soon he was writing pages of really good stuff.
She asked Andrew to read one of his reports for me titled “Changes.” In his story, Andrew told about the divorce and how, at the beginning he really didn’t want me to divorce his dad ~ he didn’t believe that Warren was really so bad and he felt sorry for him because he’d lost his family. But, after getting away from him and seeing how other people live, he knows now that before the divorce, he was not even a real person. Then he told how happy he is to be able to think and learn and have his own ideas and opinions. He concluded by saying that he is grateful that I divorced his father because he knows it was a very hard fight for me but I did it so that he could have a life and now he can be anything he wants to be.
When Andrew was done reading his report for me, his teacher was all teary-eyed and she told me that when she gave the assignment, the other students wrote about how, “My life really changed when we got a new kitten,” and such ~ but when Andrew got up and gave his report, the class listened with total interest, and when he was finished, there was absolute silence ~ and then they started clapping ~ and then the whole class gave Andrew a standing ovation.
Hang on a second while I wipe my eyes …
Just seeing the difference in my children (not only Andrew ~ they are all doing remarkably well) makes it totally worth the trouble ~ and in fact, I can see now that it is no trouble at all ~ single parenthood is EASY compared to living in the oppressive, crazy-making atmosphere ~ the prison which our home used to be.
Part of what makes it easier for me to allow my children to just be regular kids ~ even dreaded teenagers! (something I never thought I’d have to deal with as a QFer) ~ is that I no longer feel like their misbehavior, bad manners, and poor choices are a direct reflection on me. Back when I believed that it was appropriate for parents to direct and control every facet of their children’s lives, I also believed that if the kids didn’t turn out well ~ it must be because the parents had failed to “train up” their children according to the Lord’s precepts ~ otherwise, they would never depart from His way, right?
Recently I was talking to a woman ~ who’d never heard of “quiverfull” ~ about how and why I left the QF lifestyle. Towards the end of our conversation, I confessed that now that I don’t have chapter and verse for every detail regarding how I’m raising my kids, “I feel like I’m just making it up as I go ~ doing the best I can, but really … I’m just winging it.”
“Welcome to the real world,” she laughed. “That’s what most parents do!”
Mary Pride called it “no-fault parenting” ~ and for many years, I’d have seriously pitied any mother with kids like mine ~ kids who don’t always praise me and who are not absolutely certain about God, Jesus, and just about everything.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my 9-year-old, Lydia Jean’s long hair was looking rather scraggly ~ she’d never had a haircut, only trims ~ and her naturally wavy hair was so long and beautiful. BUT ~ it definitely was not looking so good ~ so I decided to cut off about 8 inches which made her hair look really nice again. A little while later, Lydia came to me ~ all smiles ~ to show me that she’d taken the scissors and given herself bangs. UGH!!
I was so upset! And I realized later that the reason I was angry is that she’d just decided she wanted bangs and cut them ~ totally without consulting me or asking permission. When I was explaining this to my mother ~ she just laughed as though that’s something that kids just naturally do ~ she told me that my sister had done the same thing to my hair when I was a toddler. My older daughter, Berea expressed my thoughts exactly when she said, “That’s not something that ever would have happened in this house before.”
Before ~ everything was highly organized and scissors were never left laying around for the children to help themselves to ~ plus, they were all so closely supervised that they wouldn’t have a chance to do whatever they wanted like that. So ~ with 7 children, we’ve never had one of them give themselves a haircut ~ until now. Now I’m laughing too ~ because I’d rather have a few mishaps (okay, a lot of mishaps) because we’ve relaxed and the kids are acting independently ~ than to have a perfectly controlled home where no-one is allowed to be an individual. And actually, Lydia Jean did not do too bad of a job on her hair ~ perhaps we’ve discovered a new talent ~ her future career? LOL
Yesterday, 13-year-old Hazelle (our newest teen) was having a meltdown. She’d stayed up too late while on a sleepover at a neighbor girl’s house ~ she was getting cranky with everyone and they were all getting mad at her in return. Before long, she was screaming about how everyone hates her and then she went off to her room to pack her suitcase. When I asked her where she was going, Hazelle yelled, “Anywhere but here!!”
We talked for a while ~ I didn’t insist that she mustn’t be angry or make her quit calling her sisters “bitches” ~ I just listened to her and then held her while she cried. After she got all that anger and frustration out, she laid down and took a much-needed nap.
That is totally NOT how I’d have handled a similar situation “Q.D.” ~ in fact, no such incident would ever have occurred before ~ because 1) we didn’t do sleepovers and everything was so regimented that the kids never stayed up too late, and 2) it used to be that Hazelle just didn’t talk to anyone. She kept to herself and never caused a bit of trouble because she just was not the type (unlike “spirited” Chassé) to have a contrary opinion or to get angry when she felt misused and unappreciated.
After a good night’s rest, Hazelle is in a much better frame of mind. She started the day by preparing a nice breakfast without being asked, and having her little brother (whom she totally hated yesterday) serve it to me on a pretty tray. She’s playing cooperatively with her sister without bossing or taking offense at every perceived slight. She’s cracking jokes and smiling when her siblings laugh. She has unpacked her stuff and is not planning to run away from home any time in the near future.
Life is good.
Early in my correspondence with my uncle Ron, I explained to him why I never referred to my children as “kids” ~ preferring instead to think of them as “little lambs.” I imagine that my unbelieving uncle rolled his eyes as he read my words, but he was gracious in his reply: Little lambs yes, Vyckie. But if you’re lucky you may have a rambunctious billygoat or two in the bunch.
Lucky. Fortunate. Blessed. That’d be me.
Yes ~ children are a blessing. And I’m truly grateful to be blessed seven-fold. At times it is total chaos at our house ~ but I wouldn’t trade the messiness of the clashing of all the various personalities of my “rambunctious billygoats” and the pandemonium of willful “kids” practicing their freedom of thought on one another for the quiver full of neat, orderly, compliant “precious lambs” which I used to imagine my kids to be.
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NLQ recommended reading:
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce