Driving down the road, I came across this song that I hadn’t heard in years, I think. I sang along to it just like I used to, but this time I didn’t get choked up, despite having both of my babies in the back seat. You’d think that now that I actually have children I’d be more open to the idea that this song represents exactly how I feel about my kids. And you’d be right…but only in part.
You see, my children are not “my life, my future, my everything.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. I’d like to think that I even love them unconditionally. But you see, I’m a human and an individual, and many years before they came around, I was involved in this amazing relationship with this man and we formed a family of our own. We knew that we wanted kids, and, please hear me, I love them with all of the love that I can humanly give, but I also love their Daddy more than I love them. Without their Daddy, they wouldn’t be here.
I distinctly remember something that my mom told me when I was a teenager going through my teenage crisis years. We were in some sort of fight about why we couldn’t be friends and how my Dad loved me more and how I hated her guts and how she didn’t love me enough, and… You get the point. When it all calmed down she told me that she loved me more than I’d ever know how much she loved me (yeah, right), and then told me that she was always going to side with my Dad over me. And then she told me we couldn’t be friends because I was her daughter and it wasn’t her job to be my friend. And then she told me something about me not being the center of her world and I’m pretty sure my world crashed again.
But I get it, now.
Parents are borrowing our children. We’re not designed to hold onto them forever. It doesn’t mean that we won’t love them forever, it just means that we have this whole life before they come around, it shifts a little while they’re here, and then when they leave for pursuing their own lives, our lives go back to being ours again. We are not supposed to shift every ounce of our beings to revolve around our children. They are only ours for a short period of time in this life, and then we give them back to God. This may be a literal return to God through death, or it may just be a figurative return where we see them fly the nest and spread their own wings. Neither will be easy, but if we’re lucky, they will occasionally return to our home (not theirs anymore) to show us how they’re growing and creating a world for themselves.
It’s a natural progression. We don’t sign up to be parents to raise our best friends and drop everything about us because they join us. We aren’t designed to lose our identity over their presence. They are a gift that we are entrusted to care for while we’re here on earth, and then they move on and we move on.
It almost scares me how much I see people, particularly young/teenage parents, who are still forming their own identity, lose themselves to their children. Everything becomes about that baby/child. Friends are very much put on the back burner. Education becomes an afterthought. Careers or work aspirations are no more. “My life, my future, my heart, my everything – my child and their life and their future.”
And then what happens when the children leave the nest? Where are we? What does our relationship with our spouse look like? Who are we? What do we do next?
We tend to be lost. We’ve put so much of us into our child that we forget that we existed apart from our child before they existed. We forget that God created us to be individuals, gave us a calling, and placed us here on earth for a reason as well.
My child is not my life. My child is not my future. My child is certainly not my everything.
My child is important in my life. I look forward to seeing what my child does in his/her future, but I have my own as well. My child is a large part of my life, but not the only reason I’m alive. Being a parent is something I’ve always wanted, but I knew it was for the purpose of raising one of God’s children and enjoying being integral in this person’s life. At the same time, I also understand that God doesn’t ask me to sacrifice my individuality, my reason for being created, God’s calling on my life for this other person. God has asked me to lovingly raise this person, teach him/her about life in Christ, raise them with a purpose which is to live life for God’s glory, and help this person determine who God has created him/her to be, all while showing this person through example what it means to live a life of faith while enjoying being an individual, a spouse and a parent…and whatever other “titles” God places in my life.
No, my child is not my life. But I will certainly love this child more than he/she will ever know and I will live my life as an example for him/her to help her live into God’s intentions for him/her. And I will continue to live, myself, into what God’s using me for here on earth. For these next many years that happens to be as a mom to two beautiful children, but it’s also as a spouse, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a pastor, a writer…etc.
Not my life, but a life for me to enjoy while God’s entrusted me with my child’s care.
I think a more appropriate song for the love I have for my children might be this one. It’s already going by quickly, so I’m buckling up for the ride, trusting God to lead me in parenting God’s children, and enjoying doing it alongside my husband with the love and support of our families and friends. Not mine. God’s. I’m just the lucky parent who loves hard and prays hard, hoping I’m doing an okay job for God while I’ve got the chance.