The last time that we talked, you mentioned that you and your wife had decided to wait a while before having children. It is a wise course. Being married takes a lot of adjustment to your personal life. Having children will cause a whole new set of changes to come into your life. And those changes won’t be just when the child is born. Every moment of the child’s development will cause changes in your lifestyle and in your relationship as husband and wife.
Even though becoming parents is a ways off, now is a good time to start learning what is involved in being a parent. So far you have seen life only from a child’s point of view. Looking at life as a parent is vastly different. As a parent, you are responsible for the outcome of another person’s life – an awesome and fearful task if you dwell on it for a length of time.
So how do you get ready? Practice on your friend’s kids! Volunteer to watch someone’s little kids for an afternoon so the parents can get something done. Depending on their age you can take them to the park, out to watch a children’s movie, or take them out to McDonalds. The kids will have a blast and their Mom and Dad will be so appreciative of a break. Meanwhile, you can find out how to deal with little ones, see things from their point of view, deal with sibling fights, calm a tired and sleepy child, and best of all, even the most difficult child goes back home eventually.
Start collecting fun things for the kids to do: making simple crafts for the kids to take back to their parents, go to the library to find interesting books, make instant chocolate pudding and let the kids fingerpaint the bathtub a bit before bath time.
As you get more comfortable, have sleep overs. Pick up the children on Saturday afternoon and bring them back to their parents at church Sunday morning. You’ll learn all sorts of things about parenting that you never realized existed.
Let me also encourage you to develop relationships with older couples in your congregation. Often times we have a tendency to gravitate toward people our own age. But people your own age rarely know more about life than you do. Look at the relationship of older couples. What is it that they are doing that you admire? Are there things there that you want avoid in your own marriage? Who is raising the best crop of kids? Whose kids are turning out to be brats? What are the successful ones doing that the others are not?
I remember getting to know an older couple in a small congregation. Not one of their children were faithful to the Lord. None became Christians, even though this couple came to every service and participated in all that the church did. It puzzled me until the wife once mentioned with pride in her voice that she kept her children home until they were eight so that they never disturbed the worship. I believe she told me this on a day when one of our little one was being a fussbudget during services. A light bulb went off in my head. Her children never learned to sit quietly through services. They never had the joy of singing along with the congregation. They never benefitted from playing with other children whose parents loved the Lord. Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Here was a prime example of this in the negative. Her children never were trained to go to church and when they became old the habit stuck.
My wife and I resolved never to let that happen in our family. We always went. Sure, we missed lessons while we dealt with fussy children in the back, but we didn’t let them play. As soon as they quieted down, we went back in. Some times we spend most of the service going in and out, but eventually it stuck with them.
We also determined that we were going to set the best example for them. We go to church always. Other events have to revolve around church and not the other way around. We have to be very ill before we don’t show up. That is why on the day I got out of the hospital from having gallbladder surgery, I was at services that night. Oh, I paid for it. I was exhausted the next day, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The result has been that as our boys have gotten jobs, they have made sure their schedules do not conflict with services. At times they have had to work at it, arranging with fellow employees to take their place when the boss ignored their request for time off, but eventually it paid off. They don’t question whether they should be a services. If anything they question whether they need to find a more reasonable employer.
Start thinking about how you want your children to be when they become young adults, and start behaving that way now. Sure, you don’t have children yet, but it will be easier to develop the habits while there aren’t little ones around to distract you.