Little children are exuberant, joyful, full of wonder, curiosity and a sense of awe and trust in big people. They love unconditionally, without judgement, when they are loved. These are qualities God values.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 18:3
However, we can act just like the apostles and try to dismiss them because kids are loud. messy, and they can’t sit still. Although the Almighty loves them, parents often try to subdue them in the presence of God. Church becomes a miserable experience for all.But Jesus said to the disciples and to modern day parents,
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”- Matthew 19:14
As I mothered, I tried to let kids be kids at home. One afternoon an acquaintance stopped by for a cup of tea with two preschool children in tow. At first, she was very nervous and jumping up at every disturbance she heard as the kids played. Trying to soothe her nerves I explained,
“Relax and let them have fun; anything that could be broken probably is and anything that is not, probably should be.”
Her mouth dropped open but then she laughed and stopped straining her ears for the smallest sound of trouble.
I am foolish but also proud to say that our house was a very, very fine house with a dog at the door, a cat or two curled up on the best chairs, goldfish swimming circles on my too small counter, sometimes a hamster, guinea pig or rabbit in a cage on the kitchen floor, paintings and crafts displayed anywhere and everywhere and of course way too many plants.
Our living room was a lived in room with all sorts of activity centres and corners. Prized Lego structures were covered with a tablecloth for meals. After dinner, the older kids and their dad would sip tea or water and talk as they worked on the puzzle.
In the midst of our joyful chaos, the littlest ones often spoke spontaneously about God, surprising and shocking my husband and me.
It is all about mutual respect. Not only demanding respect but respecting little people’s need to explore,create and learn. Catholic life is lived in a spirit of humility, gratitude, and joy. I know when, as a parent, I allowed His Spirit to permeate my life and home, I consequently modeled mutual respect, kindness, and joy towards my spouse and my kids, they modeled mutual respect as well.
We lived in a house built for kids because their mental and emotional well-being came first. It was so easier to live this way. I was a fast learner as I quickly realized that tearing down a block city that would host hours of absorbing play the next morning was absolutely self-defeating.
I once read, that for a child, the hour put into a block structure is similar to a business man working weeks on a project. Just as a grown man would be devastated to see weeks of work dismissed, so too is a child devastated to have his blocks swept back into the bin, right after he has finished stacking them.
“Why is your house so messy”, she wondered.
Or the time a good friend , in trying to make me feel better said,
“Your house is very clean, Melanie, it just looks lived in, that’s all.
I was not mollified at the time.
One of my sister-in-laws intimidated me with her immaculate house. I mean she smoothed and folded tiny undershirts neatly in four and stacked them perfectly in the drawer! Do you know how small those undershirts are? I was lucky to get them out of the clean laundry basket and stuffed into the drawer before I needed to use them again.She did only have two kids… but still!
Then she came over one day to help me attack a project and she leaned on a counter in the kitchen and said,
“Honestly Melanie, I don’t know how you ever get out of the kitchen and laundry room!”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I sputtered,
“That is the kindest, nicest thing you could ever say to me.”
We arranged our home for our kids not for visitors.
I trust that our house was one where little people felt loved, safe and respected, no matter what their age or personality.
When we let children be who they are, allowing them to play without adult’s organizing every minute detail and even let them be bored, create or engage in imaginary play, God has a chance to speak to them right where they are. Yes ,we teach kids prayers and take the to Church but let’s not over control God’s children and stamp out His Divine spark in their souls.
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