Plaintive wails emanated from the baby monitor—the baby was awake again. As I trudged up the stairs, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. An hour later, with everyone dressed and settled into our stroller, we headed for the park. Yup, it's Strategy A—wear them all out, and Mommy gets a nap as a reward.
All along the way, passersby smiled at my little ones and me. As each one approached, my spine stiffened in anticipation of the dreaded comment: "My, you've got your hands full!" I have a close friend who also receives this comment, and we laugh about it often. On better days, I smile and say to my audience, "Full of joy!" But, on this day, I barely smiled, and muttered under my breath, "Yeah, right."
Even though I was feeling worn out, I dared not appear to be anything but capable. It disturbed me to think that almost every stranger I met might be judging me as irresponsible because my children are so close in age. Too often in this country, children are treated as burdens rather than joy-filled prophets of the beauty of life. We truly wanted each of our little prophets. But must I witness every day?
Apparently so..."One," shouted Mr. Energy. I was too tired to respond. "Two!" he urged me authoritatively. "Fwee!" Suddenly, I giggled. Three people had greeted us with the dreaded comment on the way to the park.
"Three!" I responded to my son. My pre-schooler chimed in, and we counted to three the rest of the way to the park. After setting my little captives free, I sat down to nurse the baby. A woman with one eighteen-month-old girl sat next to me.
I forced a smile as the inevitable comment rolled off her tongue, "My, you've got your hands full!" "Four!" screamed my brain. Just then, Mr. Energy jumped over next to the bench. My real smile returned, and I said, "They do keep me busy." Encouraged by my smile, she continued, "I don't know how you do it—just one keeps me hopping. I can't imagine having more children. I just don't have what it takes."
Sighing inside, I decided not to answer. I cringed at the mental reminder that I didn't have what it takes, either. Just that morning, I yelled at them several times and even threw a toy across the room when I tripped over it. I couldn't summon the self-righteousness to begin my usual dissertation on the joys of multiple siblings.
Suddenly, I saw my son run full steam ahead toward another child, with my daughter right behind him. Excusing myself quickly, I ran (baby in tow) to redirect their energies. The mother of the bulldozee tried to be nice, but it was clear that she thought my children were out of control. My head began to hurt as I helped the children apologize.
Actually, it felt more like I was the one out of control. By the time we were ready to leave, two other mothers had offered me the startling insight, "My, you've got your hands full!" In a foul mood, I rounded up my kids and filled the stroller. My son was counting again, and banging his feet on the footrest of the stroller. I echoed him in my mind, "Five! Six!" Would this day never end?
Mentally shouldering my cross, I headed for home. Across the street, an elderly couple lurked on our homeward path. Sighing again, I headed straight for them. They smiled broadly at me as we approached one another. "My," the older woman began—and I promised myself I would not scream—"what adorable children you have. How lucky you all are to have one another!"
Dumbfounded, I responded, "Thank you." I pondered her words for several blocks. God had sent me a Veronica to wipe my brow and to encourage me to continue following Jesus to Calvary. I realized that God's glory is shown through my weakness. The burdens we take on for His glory are simultaneously carried by our Lord. I had been trying to carry the whole load—for my own glory. I wanted to look capable. God only wanted me to lean on Him.
"Count it all joy...when you meet various trials," declares James 1:2, "for you know that the testing of your faith produces [perseverance]."
"One" began my toddler again. This time, I joined in right away. My children beamed up at me. Joyfully, we counted all the way to twenty.