Not too long ago, my family and I stumbled into the grocery store for another adventure in shopping for food. I sent our oldest son to retrieve a “buggy” while the rest of us stood there getting our bearings. I looked up to see a young woman holding onto a cart with a baby in a car seat perched on the front and a toddler riding in the basket.
She was staring at us.
I wouldn’t have minded her staring, but it became kind of awkward because she wouldn’t stop staring. Before long we were staring back. For a few seconds we were all just standing there looking at each other.
She finally snapped out of it and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was staring.”
Now just for the record, we’ve been stared at before. Wes and I toting our four stair-stepped children have received many a look, especially when our kids were younger. These looks are not always the enthusiastic, admiring kinds of looks. (Maybe I’ll get into that in another post.)
This young woman, however, was beaming. She had this big smile on and she kept glancing from Wes to me to each of our kids and back again. “I have four very small children,” she explained, “and when I looked at you, I saw what life will be like in the future.” And from the look on her face, she liked what she saw.
When we parted company, I noticed her husband pull up beside her in one of those carts that has a place for two kids to sit and “drive.” It was like a flashback.
When your kids are infant, toddler, and preschool-sized, it can be easy to think, “This is never going to end.” These years are physically intense, there’s no doubt. There seems to always be a little person with a need, looking to you to meet it.
I can remember being reluctant to go anywhere by myself because I was afraid I’d lose somebody. My understanding husband did a lot of grocery shopping for me because I knew there was no way I could keep an eye on everyone by myself and come home with what was on the list (and them!).
I tried attending a Bible study once while pregnant with our fourth child. I had a big belly, one kid in a stroller, and two very small people holding onto me as we crossed a street from the parking lot to get into the church. Not only did I have to bring my purse, a diaper bag, and the Bible study material, but I had to pack a lunch for each kid. After about three attempts at this juggling act, I gave up. It was too hard.
Yesterday afternoon, standing in my kitchen, I looked up, and thankfully, I paused and observed. My oldest daughter was baking a cake. My son, who’s now taller than me, was passing through the kitchen to get a drink. My younger two were in the living room playing a game. I watched them all and my heart was full.
Now to be sure, our house is not always serene. We have our share of sin to deal with in ourselves and each other. But standing there in the kitchen, God gave me a moment to recognize what a blessing I’ve been given in each of my kids. I watched how they move around the house and the looks on their faces. I listened to their very adult-like conversations.
I love these people. And it hit me that they’re growing up more quickly than I would have ever thought possible. I kinda wanted to go squeeze them all and tell them to stop growing for a little while.
When you’re in the baby years, sometimes it’s hard to envision what the future will be like. This young woman in the grocery store saw my four children walking on their own, one kid even fetching a cart for us, and it gave her hope. And I was thankful that on that day we gave her a good example to witness.
If your head is spinning because you’re sleep deprived, or you wish you could put the activity on pause just long enough to retreat and take a shower, take a deep breath and remember that the physical sacrifices you are making today are for the benefit of some very special people. Hang in there. Ask God for His supernatural strength.
Then go wade through the Cheerios, hug your kids, and whisper a thank you to God for this wonderful crazy moment in your life.