“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” ~ Philippians 2, The Message.
If there’s ever a time in your life, a season, a chapter, where this Scripture is lived out to the full, it’s during the younger years of child-raising. In fact, it’d be difficult not to model some of these traits!
When there are toddlers in the house, Moms are experts at “forgetting themselves.” I may or may not have forgotten to shower through most of 2002, myself. (Can I get an Amen?) And doing so that we may lend a helping hand? Naturally. There’s nothing sweeter than a toddler’s sticky fingers intertwined in yours. Holding hands while crossing streets, holding onto your legs if you try to go to somewhere, holding your hair as an infant nurses, holding them by the back of their overalls when they try to make an escape … there’s a whole lot of helping hands happening in the years of the Littles.
The average four-year-old girl asks her mother 390 questions per day – averaging a question every 1 minute 56 seconds of their waking day.¹
Go ahead. Read that again. I’ll wait.
From breakfast at 7:19am to bedtime at 7:59pm, the average mom or stay-at-home dad faces a trying 12.5-hour day of questioning – working out at one question every two minutes and 36 seconds.
What does this do to us, as parents? Well, besides making our ears ring at times and forcing us to hide in the laundry room with a jar of peanut butter and a chocolate bar, it teaches us to live as Christ wanted us to: outwardly focused, swelling with love, and very aware of our own faults.
The years when my two daughters were small were the blurriest of my life thus far, but they also were full of the best “deep-spirited friendships” I’ve ever had. There’s something about giving birth and raising kids together that bond mommies to one another like nothing else ever can. My days were a hazy, beautiful mess of play dough, park days, car-shaped shopping carts, tutus, and calling my two besties at a moment’s notice with pleas to allow me to drop off my little evil doers angels for an hour or two before I lost my ever-loving mind. I always reciprocated the next day, and we were less of friends who lived down the street from one another than we were our own commune.
Full afternoons were spent at one another’s homes, lounging in yesterday’s mascara and yoga pants that had never participated in yoga, while the Littles played around us. This was the only time in my life I had friends I could just drop by on, rummage through their refrigerators, use their shower, burst into tears with, confess my deepest, darkest secrets to, and trade kids with (not permanently …).
That to me, was a community of the Spirit. It had less to do with who was hosting the next official Mom’s Prayer Group, or how many journal entries I had that week, or the drop-offs at Sunday School. It was more the tear-stained, laughter-induced antics, and day-to-day living with my munchkins and besties at my side.
Now that the days of sippy cups and naptimes are gone and have been replaced with teenage angst, driver’s tests, curfews, and dating, I miss that community. But then I go to the market, or church, or the gym, and I see those sleepy-eyed mamas, with yesterday’s mascara and yoga pants that haven’t had time yet to attempt any yoga, and the memories come flooding back. I didn’t know it when it happened: the last time I ever used a stroller, the last time I picked up a sleeping child and carried them to bed, the last time I said through gritted teeth, “Go sit on your bed until Daddy gets home!”, the last sippy cup lid I disassembled and thoroughly washed, the last time I helped flailing arms and legs with a bath … it can be sweetly sentimental, even sad, but I’m so grateful I got to live out the second chapter of Philippians for a time.
It was a time of stickiness, ringing ears, astounding monotony, sore arms, and messy cars, but it was also a time of contentment, giggling, secret sharing, growing hearts, and love.
In short, having youngsters in the home gives you a community of the Spirit and deep-spirited friends. There will never be another time like it!