We believe that parents who are properly focused on Christ can enjoy every stage of their child’s development. Each stage has its own set of blessings and challenges, but gospel–focused parents are thankful parents. Think with us about three simple truths describing every child.
Every child is an image bearer of God. Every human being is a visible representative of the God who cannot be seen. Expectant parents are about to be given one of the most wonderful responsibilities that a person could ever have. Parents have the opportunity to care for, love, cherish, and raise an image bearer of the creator.
The Lord himself crafted every child (Psalm 139:13–16). That makes every child precious in the sight of God and in the sight of his or her parents. With modern technology, expectant parents can see the developmental process in the womb. They even have the opportunity to have pictures of their little child and to post those pictures on their favorite social media sites. While new parents marvel at the various stages of development, they must also remember that God is weaving their baby inside mom’s womb.
God gives every child gifts and abilities. Rob, for example, had a desire for competition and athletics, but God did not give him the athletic ability. Two of Rob’s uncles earned Division I scholarships for their athletic accomplishments, but there were other gifts that God gave Rob other abilities. Parents can celebrate the gifts and abilities God has given each child.
These basic gospel truths set the stage to help parents enjoy their child’s development. Parents can enjoy the stage their child is in and anticipate what God will do with the child in the next stage. We have outlined the blessings we experienced as parents in each stage. A book like this cannot possibly discuss all the little blessings. Instead, these are some categories. We encourage you to keep a mental (or maybe physical) list each day of the blessings associated with caring for a child during different stages.
Blessings of Infancy
Infancy will be the only time in their lives that a child’s whole body will fit on a parent’s chest. Both of us remember the days when our infants would fall asleep with their little head under our chin and their entire body barely reaching our lap. We wanted our children to learn to sleep on their own. However, there were plenty of times we held them until they fell asleep because we loved it. That stage only lasted a short time, and it was a stage to which they never
returned. In fact, as our children grew physically, we would often tell them that they were growing too fast. Enjoy every single one of those snuggle times. Thank the Lord for the gift of life and the gift of this little one.
Infants change rapidly so every day seems like a new adventure. One day newborns may seem oblivious to their parents, and the next day they smile. Then their clothes do not fit, and the next day they make a sound that must be a word. Soon, infants are turning over, and crawling follows shortly thereafter. Rob would come home from work and inevitably there would be a story about something that our baby did for the first time. Of course, as soon as something new happens, parents want their infants to reproduce it. For example, one of our children turned in their crib. We were so excited. We laid this child in the crib and stood there waiting for it to happen again. Those were great times. We loved wondering what the new day would bring. Change was rapid, and change was a chance to give thanks to the Lord.
Infants also need their parents in a special, sweet way. The days of independence are coming. There will be a day when your child will want to use the car. There will be a day when they want to spend time with their friends, and a day when friends have a prominent influence. But in infancy, parents are primary. Little ones need help getting dressed, changing clothes, taking a bath, finding food, and getting out of bed. What a blessing to care for another human being in these ways. When their baby needs help, parents can thank the Lord that they had the opportunity to provide it.
Blessings of Toddlers
Toddlers are incredibly creative and have wonderful problem–solving abilities. One of our toddlers talked one of the grandmas into playing a game of hide–and–seek. He then locked her in the closet and left. Thankfully, it did not take long for us to let her out. We realize that there were some discipline opportunities there, but we marveled at his creativity. Where did he come up with that one? We were seeing different aspects of being made in the image of God on display before our eyes. One of the great blessings of toddlers is watching their minds work.
Toddlers are also learning language and making mistakes along the way. It is so cute to hear a two–year–old speak. Each of our children had a word or phrase that sounded precious but was entirely wrong. One child told us he needed to put his “glubs” on. A different child wanted some “m&m&ms.” It is even more wonderful to hear mom interpret.
Rob greets at the front door of the church every Sunday. As families walk by, occasionally a two–year–old must explain something. I have no idea what they are telling me. But I know they know, and I know mom knows. A little glance her way, and she interprets. Again, this is a stage that passes quickly—so enjoy it.
I (Rob) remember when one of our sons and I were going to have a tent night. He was about four years old. By now everyone could understand his language, but there were still wonderful language moments. Tent nights were times when one of the boys and I would set up a tent in the living room, watch a movie, and eat junk food. One particular tent night I said something to which our son responded “shut up.” Caught a bit off guard, I asked, “What did you say?” He responded, “I said, ‘shut up.’” I was still trying to process this series of events and asked again, “What?” He said, “I SAID, ‘SHUT … UP!’” In that moment, it hit me. I started laughing uncontrollably. I suddenly realized that our little toddler had seen a TV commercial where the phrase “shut up” was used to mean “no way—that is amazing.” At first, I thought he was being disrespectful, and what I realized is that he was saying “no way—that is amazing.” Those little language errors can make the toddler stage very enjoyable.
The toddler stage may provide many opportunities to share the gospel. Toddlers start to become aware of their own wills and their own desires. They want to exercise those desires. When they do, it provides a great opportunity to share what each child needs to hear about Jesus Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and return. Parents cannot force their child into a profession of faith. The Spirit needs to awaken individuals; however, parents are responsible to share the message of Christ. The toddler years provide great opportunities.
Toddlers provide opportunities for parents to check their motives as well. It can be hard to know what a toddler understands, until they understand. We remember telling one of our boys to be careful around electrical outlets. He seemed fascinated by them. His fascination only intensified when he learned that caution was needed. We can still picture the day our son was looking at us and holding his finger inches from the outlet. It seemed like he was saying, “I am going to touch the outlet. What will you do about it?” In that moment, parents can learn about their own motives. Is that moment about the parent’s pride, or is that moment about Christ?
Blessings of Older Children
We are going to define “older” as school age. Older children communicate with language. We loved being able to speak with our children and enjoy mutual understanding as one aspect of our relationship. Older children may be able to express their love in more tangible ways. They give big hugs and slobbery kisses (these come in the toddler stage as well). They color pictures and make little crafts. Rob has many assorted candy dishes that were gifts in this stage. We enjoyed the closeness that we developed as a result of their expressions of love.
Older children can also be surprised. It is fun to surprise them. One year we decided to take our children to Disney World in Florida. For months we counted down the days. They were so excited. They knew that we were leaving on a Saturday. Our youngest was four or five. In God’s sovereignty our big surprise was that the airline decided to change our flights. We made a few special arrangements, and we were going to leave a day earlier instead. But we did not tell them. To see the expressions on their faces when they figured out what was happening was priceless. Surprising our children with that extra day at Disney was a blessing from the Lord and one of our favorite memories.
It is often fun to see older children understand more about faith. We believe that talking to children about Jesus can start early—even in the womb. Older children can relate the truth of Scripture to the events of their lives.
Enjoying the Blessings and Limitations
Some parents have the joy of welcoming a child with physical or mental challenges into their home. Every child has a series of gifts and abilities from the Lord. Each one is a special blessing. Every child also has certain limitations. Some of the limitations are physical, others intellectual, and others emotional. Parents have the opportunity to provide special care in the way each child needs care.
Enjoy learning to trust God more. Enjoy learning about one’s own limitations. Enjoy the many blessings that each stage of life brings. Enjoy the gifts package that God gave, and provide help and encouragement regarding whatever limitations your child may have. This is such an exciting time in your life, and we hope you have great joy in the Lord in the midst of it.
Adapted from Tying Their Shoes: A Christ-Centered Approach for Preparing for Parenting. ©2019 by Rob and Stephanie Green. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the express written permission.
TYING THEIR SHOES: A CHRIST-CENTERED APPROACH TO PREPARING FOR PARENTING
Through a gospel-centered approach to parenting, Rob and Stephanie Green lay the foundation for expecting parents to welcome a new addition into their home in light of the gospel. Soon-to-be parents will find Christ-centered hope, practical advice, and encouragement toward parental unity in this invaluable resource.