It happened again. Upon running an errand with my children, we heard the ever-so-popular comment: “Boy, you have your hands full,” not once, not twice, but four times while in the store for 20 minutes.
I had to make a mid-morning run to the store with all four children in tow. After making sure everyone’s face was clean, I supervised two kids putting on socks shoes while wrangling the other two squiggly children to put their respective footwear on. Four coats were on and zipped. Four hats were secured to their heads. Four car-seats were buckled in place, and we were off. Upon opening the van door, I discovered we were missing shoes, hats, socks, and somehow an arm had been de-sleeved. I did the best I could to re-dress the kids to get them in the store.
We pulled up the cart, baby in front, toddler in back, with each big boy holding on to a side. They know the drill. They hardly ever make errands difficult. They don’t ask for anything, don’t whine, don’t run away. The biggest problem is the getting there…still dressed. My two-year old started singing his rendition of “Polly Wolly Doodle All the Day,” and the baby started clapping. As we happily walked down an aisle, a man said “Whoa, you have your hands full!” in a tone much less than encouraging.
I’m sort of used to this. We either get that comment or “Are these all yours?” We pressed on. Two aisles later, an older woman said “Oh my goodness, look at all these children! Poor mom!” I graciously smiled, and my kids grew quiet. On our way to checkout, another little one said “Look mom! Baby!” To which she replied, “Yes, and a lot of other kids too! You sure do have your hands full, you poor thing.” Finally, at the checkout, the store employee had the double-whammy: “Are all these yours?” Yes. “Boy, do you have your hands full! You guys better be good for mommy!”
Now, like I said, I’m sort of used to this. But it always had bothered me. Yes, there are days when I don’t sit down. There are moments of frustration when all I want to do is cry. There are times when one of the kids have to wait for me because I’m doing something with another, and that gets emotionally challenging. But, truth be told, I felt like this when I had just one!
When we got home from the store, my 6 year old asked, “Mom, are you o.k.? You’re hands are full and I think that’s a bad thing.” You see, people make these comments as if I’m walking around with children who have no ears, no brains, no common sense. These strangers’ comments are slowly teaching my children about how society views children. Poor mom. What a burden. Don’t you have any time for yourself? Slowly, these thoughts and comments seep into little minds who have began questioning their importance to me and to others.
After my son’s comment, I gathered my boys and we had a big hug that turned into a cuddle. I told them that my hands were full, but not the way all those people at the store think. I told them, as I held them tight, my hands were full of love, and joy, and silliness, and amazing gifts that were just for me.
In my short time as a mom, I have learned much about what society thinks about children. They are a financial burden, a handful, a problem for mom. I suppose I can view these comments as ways to sympathize with me, but in reality, I’m not in mourning! I’m alive because of my kids. Unfortunately, every time we leave the house, they are exposed to this rhetoric, and they’re starting to listen and learn.
My heart was heavy last night as I went to bed. How, Lord, can I teach them that they are not a burden, but a blessing. The answer came this morning. We opened our Bible and the story we were scheduled to read was “The Friend of the Little Children” taken from various parts of the Gospels, Matthew 18 and 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. I love how The Jesus Storybook Bible put it. After arguing who was the most important in God’s kingdom, the disciples watched as a group of children ran to Jesus.
“Jesus’ helpers tried to send them away. ‘Jesus doesn’t have time for you!’ they said. “He’s too tired.’ But they were wrong. Jesus always had time for children. ‘Don’t ever send them away!’ Jesus said. ‘Bring the little ones to me.’”
Sounds familiar. Poor Jesus, he’s too tired for such a handful. Can you imagine as the onlookers watched these energetic little ones climb onto a tired Jesus’ lap asking him to tell them a story. Boy, does he have his hands full! Boys and girls, you better be good for him!
“Well, after all the laughing and games, Jesus turned to his helpers and said, ‘No matter how big you grow, never grow up so much that you lose your child’s heart: full of trust in God. Be like these children. They are the most important in my kingdom.’”
You should’ve seen the look on my oldest son’s face as I read these words. It was as if relief had come to his worried mind. It wasn’t just me who said he wasn’t a burden, but Jesus said it himself! I am not to be pitied, but rather I should be regarded as a very blessed woman! I get to spend my days and nights with the most important in His kingdom! Most of the time, however, we are received in a very different manner. What an upside down kingdom we live in.
Children are a lot of work. Remember the 8 shoes 8 socks, 4 coats, 4 hats that lasted about 10 minutes of travel? In order to have them behave in a store, there was much training involved. There are tantrums, bad attitudes, and more physical labor than I could have imagined. But there is joy, laughter, hugs and kisses. And though they are not always innocent, and though they are not always wise, they are pure in heart. And the pure in heart will see God.
I cannot control what people say, but I will relentlessly be the voice that is constantly whispering the truth in their ears: they are not a burden, but a gift and the closest thing to real joy and love this side of glory.
“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 NLT