Have you ever been told or felt like life is over after having a child? Many many many people feel this way AND IT DRIVES ROBIN AND I CRAZY. Too be fair, we had previously experience in dealing with the "life will be over" syndrome. We got married at a young age. People continuously told us we were crazy. They explained how we would miss out on so much in life, and how life as we knew it would be over. We discovered life is a choice, you can either live it or wait to die. Life is like a wild river, you can either grab a kayak and ride the rapids or sit on the bank and observe its beauty. Eventually beauty gets lost on most people. The funny thing is that Robin and I have experienced much more life than many of our well-meaning critics AND WE HAVE EXPERIENCED IT TOGETHER! The same goes for having children. I hope by now it is easy to see that the Robin and I value doing life with people. We believe this is the most biblical model of life. Jesus did life with His disciples, the church in Acts ate together daily, and Paul was always surrounded by people. But how is it possible to do this with a child?
The Purse Child The greatest advice we ever received when it came to raising children was to treat them like a purse. This is Robin's favorite principle in raising kids. The purse theory says that you invite your child into your routine, rather than adjusting to their routine. Remember, your infants are like sponges. They are constantly developing and forming habits, and they do so VERY quickly. So like introducing your child to community, you need to invite them into your routine as soon as possible.
Flexibility There are A LOT of advantages to treating your child like a purse. The first is an EXTREMELY flexible child. As I have said before, Sojo is our introvert and more "whiney" child. He is cautious towards people and dd not like being dropped off places. But notice I said he "did" not like being dropped off. He has and is still learning how to adjust. There are not many places we are afraid to take our children, because there are not many situations they are not familiar with. Our kids do not hang in our shadow when we go new places. When they cry and act up, we teach them how to act properly and/or discipline their bad behavior.
The world revolves around who? What does it tell a child when the whole day is built around their needs? Yes, I realize that an infant is an infant. I also realize that a child in like a sponge. If you show them life revolves around them, then they will act like the world revolves around them. At what point are you going to break this habit? I see many 2-yr-olds, 4-yr-olds, 16-yr-olds, 25-yr-olds, etc. who believe the world revolves around them. Treating your child like a purse shows them they are a part of a larger story. Eventually they will learn this story is about a Kingdom and serving this Kingdom, and in this Kingdom they will be called to lose themselves. So why not have this end in mind from the beginning? I know, I know. This is a bit drastic right? Uhm...I never said we are not radically purposeful in our parenting :). Your child is a sponge. From the moment they are born they are figuring out how to operate in this world.
Confidence Treating your child like a purse instills unintentional and unconscious confidence in them. Almost every task and experience you learn and achieve in life gives you a bit more confidence. Your children will experience so many different things from how to meet people to how to love, share, give, and laugh with friends, family and others. These are free life lessons! You don't even know you are doing them. The acceptance and love they get from others will tell them they are valuable, this will give them great self-esteem. We ask our children "Who loves you? as part of our bed time routine. In addition to mom, dad and siblings, they include Uncle Choe Choe, Uncle Eric, Aunt Katie, Uncle Tyler, Shahannah, Achilles, etc. HOW DO THEY KNOW THIS? WHY DO THEY FEEL THIS WAY? Because these are people they have done life with on an almost daily or at least weekly basis. These are TRUE and REAL relationships. There is not a moment in any of our kids lives that they can remember not interacting with our friends and family. Even with Kanoa (our 5-month-old), there is not a day that goes by that someone in our life community does not hold and play with him. HE KNOWS HE IS LOVED!
Schedules and Routines? What about sleep and sleep routines? I know many of you will or do think we are crazy, but your kids can and will learn to sleep whenever and wherever they need. They only need the routine because you have introduced them to the routine. One of two things happen when you build your routine around you child's routine. You either force your friends and community to adjust there routine or schedule to meet your babies needs (uhm...reinforcing that the world does revolve around your baby syndrome), or you pull away from your friends and community and life ends as you know it. Marriages that pull away from friends and community REALLY struggle.
Remember when I said purse kids are extremely flexible? Our kids will literally sleep anywhere. The picture for today is Sojo sleeping at the restaurant last night. We go as a family our for half-priced burgers on Tuesday nights. Sojo fell asleep while waiting for a table, so we laid him on Robin's coat beside our table. They can sleep in Uncle Andrew's basement, on the ground of a restaurant, or in the car. If you start treating your child like a purse from the very beginning they will sleep in their car seat before moving to the floor. We have friends who take their pack'n'plays around with them everywhere.
Who is the Potter? Someone is going to have to adjust, either the parent or the child. For Robin and I, this was and never will be a question. Why? Because we have been invited into a Kingdom that requires our service. There are people God has called us to do life with, to love and serve. We have offered our lives up as a living sacrifice. The greatest gift we can give our children is an invitation into this life and work alongside us. In parenting like our Heavenly Father, it is not Him who adjusts to our will but rather we adjust to His. Too many Christians serve a god they can mold with their hands, but the God Robin and I serve is the potter and we are the clay. In mirroring how He parents, our children are the clay and we are the potters. They adjust to us, not the other way around.