It’s not easy to ‘carpe diem’, or seize the day, when you have young children. On most days it’s just hoping for the day to pass and for you to have survived another day. (How many of you are like me and keep checking the clock and counting the minutes to bedtime?!)
Sometimes parents put their dreams and ambitions on hold to focus on giving their children the best they can, both in monetary terms and in time. That is noble and truly sacrificial.
On the other hand, there are parents who neglect their children in the midst of pursuing their own careers and ambitions. I think none of was want to be in this group.
Although it is noble and sacrificial to put our own dreams and ambitions on hold for the sakes of our kids, sometimes we lose sight of those dreams. Sometimes these dreams move further and further away and we begin to settle.
I don’t wish to settle.
I don’t think I’m overly ambitious, but I do have my dreams that I hope to see come to pass. One of my desires is to travel on mission trips. I did that every year through my university years, but I got married a year after graduation and had my first kid the following year. Traveling on mission trips was put on hold for a whole 5 years. I did get back on traveling at least once a year after the second kid was 2 years old. (The perks of being married to a missions pastor – lots of trips to go on and a husband who supports and believes in missions!)
When I share with others my love for travel and missions, some of them would tell me, with every good intention, that I can travel more when the kids are grown up, even more when they are out of the house. And yes, of course that’s true and I nod in agreement, but deep down I’m thinking, “I don’t want to wait that long!”
I think we need to carpe diem, when we are young, even when the kids are young.
Involve the kids in ministry
Like I said, I did go back to traveling some, and it’s been such a blessing and privilege to be able to do that. I’m thankful for the help I get for the kids when I travel. My husband and I hardly travel together (I only travel about once a year) so that at least one of us will be home with the kids.
The key, I feel, is to share every experience with the children; to carpe diem with the children. It is not, “This is my thing, my career, my hobbies” but to make it “our thing”.
This is important when it comes to being in a minister’s family. We have heard of pastors/missionaries’ kids who grow up not liking the ministry because they feel that they have lost their parents to the ministry. We pray, by His grace, that our kids will never feel that.
God first, family next. And ministry (or what we think is ministry) is not God. It cannot become our idol.
So we make sure to involve our children in the ministry we do as much as we can. They are there with us in church services, in volunteer programmes, in dinner meetings, even in church clean ups. And last year, we brought the whole family on a mission trip to visit some orphanages in Surabaya, Indonesia. (read Caleb’s post about it here.)
We explain to them the things we do. And I think we send a powerful message when we model serving God. If they see our love for God through our ministry for Him, we hope they will also have that same love for Him and desire to serve Him. They have to see that we put God first above everything and that if God wants us to serve Him in some way, we will all serve Him together.
I have seen how letting our children into our lives have really benefitted both us and them. For one, we spend more time together since we bring them where we go when we can.
When we were pastoring the African Congregation in church and I was teaching Children’s Church, my boys would tell me I’m their favourite Sunday School teacher (I’m sure that’s not a biased statement!)! I’m not sure I’m the best, but at least I’m their favourite. 🙂 And the funny thing is they behaved for me as if they were in ‘school’, not quite the same as they would be at home, even though they’re good boys. 🙂
Now that Caleb is older, he would go to work with Daddy sometimes and they spend a lot of time in general talking about different things. Daddy also brought him on a trip to the Philippines last year. One thing Daddy does is to let Caleb read his sermon notes, so Caleb knows some of his recent sermons. A few weeks back, Caleb showed me a sermon he had written. He really surprised me, it was so good! It sounded like something I heard in my theological studies! It was about the Pharisees. But the funny thing is he outlined his sermon like his Daddy does for his sermons, including a story, some questions pointed at the audience, down to an altar call at the end! (tears…)
Talk about your life and your dreams
When I come back from work, I talk to the boys sometimes about what’s happening at work, especially about the youth I work with who come from troubled families. I can see that the boys are developing empathy as they ask questions about my students. I also tell them funny things that happen in school and we enjoy laughing about what happened in school for me and for them.
I believe in what I’m doing, and I want my children to be right in it with me. I don’t want them to think they’re losing me to work or to ministry. Sometimes when I ask them about whether they’d want me to go to work or stay home, they’d tell me I should go to work. One of their reasons is so they can come to my staffroom and visit (kids’ logic??) and another is so that I can continue helping the students who need help.
So instead of begrudging what we cannot do when we are ‘tied down’ with young children, let’s begin to involve them in our lives, in the things we do, even in the mundane tasks. (Even though they are boys, my boys love to help me in the kitchen. I think they have grandiose ideas of being Junior Masterchefs!)
So go ahead, carpe diem with your children. And share with me how you do it. 🙂