Peter DeVries once said, “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.”
I think both processes are important, but have nonetheless found his point to be true. Having children does tend to mature us faster and better than we might expect to mature without them.
When my husband and I first married, the prevailing wisdom of the time was that a couple should wait five or six years before starting a family. They should get on their feet, perhaps buy a house, and certainly take time to get to know one another before bringing a baby into the picture.
Life didn’t work out that way for us.
God overruled any half-hearted attempts we considered making to prevent pregnancy (which were essentially none at all), and I conceived just two short weeks into our honeymoon.
Thus began our true metamorphoses into adults.
My husband and I were both firstborn, and we both had the stubborn, selfish, self-centered personality so often associated with that birth order. Thankfully, children have a way of working such things out of a parent. Of knocking off the rough edges. Of teaching us to put another ahead of ourselves. (The fact that we still struggle with selfishness at all — even after twelve children — is an indication of just how bad the problem was to begin with).
We have found that having children, having a lot of them, and having them early has been good for our mindset. It has caused us to look at the world differently, giving us a heightened awareness of danger and a fierce desire to protect our little ones from any and every threat, be it physical, spiritual or philosophical in nature. It has shifted our focus away from self.
From the moment I first found out I was expecting, motherhood has compelled me to consider carefully the foods I eat, the hours I sleep, the words I speak, the books I read, and the company I keep. It has forced me to think through where to store cleaning supplies, sharp objects, fragile heirlooms, and photo albums. It’s helped me remember to take my vitamins. It has kept me on my knees in prayer.
Having babies has been good for my marriage, as well as my mindset. Not only has being a parent changed the way I look at the world, but it has changed the way I look at my husband.
I never knew how much I love him, until I saw how much he loves them.
As newlyweds, we were told that we should get to know one another before having a baby. In reality, having a baby allowed us to get to know each other in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the baby.
Watching my husband kiss and cuddle and coo over our firstborn simply melted my heart. (He has done this with every one of our babies, to the same effect).
Hearing him spontaneously break into song — usually some silly rhyme or nonsensical verse he composes on the spot, such as “Oh, my smokin’ goodness, this little baby is a toodness” — has never failed to bring a smile to my face or to theirs.
I’ve enjoyed watching him teach our children to tie their laces and scramble eggs and ride a bike and swing a bat and start a lawnmower and drive a car.
I’ve admired his clear instruction, his boundless energy, his patience, and his sense of humor.
I’ve watched my husband keep vigil over a sick child, have marked the concern in his eyes, have heard him pray earnestly on their behalf. When at 23 months, our first son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he spent a week at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and Doug never left his side.
My husband works tirelessly, gives lavishly, and loves wholeheartedly. He walks in integrity (Prov. 20:7), and his wife and children are blessed because of it. He chooses to do the right thing and to do it faithfully, even when his motives are misunderstood and his sacrifices unappreciated.
Watching the way Doug parents, seeing the tender care with which he leads our family, has filled my heart to overflowing with a deep, abiding love and appreciation for the magnificent man I married.
And so, on Father’s Day (and the day after, and the day after), I want to honor the father of my children and to thank him for his willingness to be a father twelve times over (or more, should God so bless).
Thank you, Doug Flanders. I love you dearly. It’s been great growing up together.