When Jon and I first got engaged, I thought my engagement ring was the most beautiful one I had ever seen. It seemed so huge and felt so strange and marvelous on my hand. But then, after a little while, other friends started to get engaged. And one night, my ring looked a little small.
It seemed like a ridiculous prayer, but right then, I prayed that I would never see my engagement ring as small. In praying that, I prayed for my marriage too—that I wouldn’t start to take our marriage or Jon for granted. And since then, with all the rings I’ve seen and all the friends I’ve celebrated with, my engagement ring still strikes me as the most perfect one.
Fast forward six years. I remember people saying that after the second baby, the first child might seem almost obnoxious in his or her loudness and largeness. But when Walt was born and Liam walked in to see him, Liam still seemed like my sweet little toddler.
Within a few weeks though, I saw what they meant. Liam’s hands and feet seemed too big, and his voice seemed so loud (especially when the baby was sleeping). His requests sometimes felt so burdensome. Though his night-waking was actually improving, some nights I found myself thinking, “He’s old enough to sleep on his own in his room all night. This is ridiculous.” In fact, a lot of little things that had not bothered me started to bother me. I was shocked that he wasn’t more mature, and it seemed odd that he would explode over little things.
What amazes me most while typing this is that while Liam did change after Walt was born, my expectations of him probably changed even more. I didn’t realize that I was suddenly responding so differently to his frustrations, which weren’t a lot different than they were before. I didn't think about it this way until I read something that said you often realize how high your expectations were for your first child when your second child reaches each new stage.
Recently, I realized how often and quickly I view Liam as an obstacle in my day. It’s not always or even most of the time, but it does happen. And it leaves me feeling guilty and confused because how could this little boy that always seemed so perfect and sweet ever become an obstacle? How could he want to hit me? Why do I sometimes feel like yelling?
We were reading The Jesus Storybook Bible before bed, and I wanted to read Liam the story of Jesus and the children. It was my favorite story when I was little, and as a child, I always thought it was written just for me. The fact that Jesus did not dismiss the children—that he welcomed them—always gave me so much comfort. As I was reading it to Liam, this stood out:
“Jesus helpers tried to send [the children] 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.””
I love the next part even more. Sally Lloyd-Jones invites the reader to think about what he or she would have done. She says,
“Or… would you have done just what these children did — run straight up to Jesus and let him pick you up in his arms and swing you and kiss you and hug you and then sit you on his lap and listen to your stories and your chats?”
This convicted me. Sometimes it's the little chats that are the hardest. I often find myself too tired to engage (or at least, that’s what I tell myself.). But Jesus was never too tired for little children. This story gave me encouragement to fight the tiredness, the frustration, and my own selfishness.
And I started praying again that I would see Liam as I should—that I would still see him as my sweet little boy even when things are difficult.
This prayer has been answered over and over. I’ve stopped seeing him as an obstacle so often. Even when I’m exhausted, I’ve been able to love his sweet, warm little hands and his big blue eyes. I’ve started to see how young he really is, and I’ve been able to better put myself in his shoes. I've started seeing all the wonderful things about him again, and meeting his needs does not feel so burdensome.
I don’t honestly know the balance of having the right expectations for an almost three-year-old. We try to be gentle in our discipline and realistic in our expectations, but it’s hard to know when to draw the line. There’s always the fear that he will turn out badly due to our discipline or our lack of discipline. But I’m trying to have faith and pray for grace to meet each new challenge with new patience.
And I'm praying often that I'll see all the people in my life as Jesus does--never as obstacles. I don't want my children or anyone else to be a "project," so I don't just pray for my own actions but also for my vision to actually change when it needs to. It's the best kind of rose-colored glasses.