Monday, January 16, 2012

The Poor Lady on 153

On our way home from Chattanooga today I glanced over to see a lady who has my pity. I feel so very, very sorry for her. At first she didn't have my pity because...well, I felt a bit of disgust towards her.

Jonathan and I ceased having a conversation as our eyes glanced at her car while we passed (I am pretty sure my mouth was agape). I couldn't find the words to sum up what I was feeling but let me tell you, I am very proud to be married to a man who summed up what he saw in one word.

"Weird." (said he)

It wasn't the lady we were staring at, but instead her bumper sticker. This is what it said.
As I said I did not feel much pity for her at first. My immediate emotions probably bordered on anger. It didn't help that I had just finished a lovely day thinking (no less than a handful of times) about how much I enjoy the 8-month old that stays attached to my hip.

I thought about it while sitting in the waiting room at T.C. Thompson (don't worry, just a repeat hearing test). All I had to say was "jump jump" and Tessa would passionately jump like a Mexican jumping bean on my lap for 20 seconds straight. This child cracks me up. Thank you, Lord...Thank you.

I thought about it after I threw my coffee cup away at Target. On a whim I waved to it and said bye bye, just to see what Tessa would do. After a huge grin she dutifully waved bye bye and babbled "bah bah bah bah." It was so cute it made me wish I had more coffee cups that needed throwing away.

I thought about it this weekend when Karis nominated herself mediator during two different conversations where Jonathan and I were teasing each other (they weren't arguments...promise.) The first time she spoke with authority was to Jonathan and said "dad, listen to your wife." I guess later she felt like she needed to even things out and take his side while she informed me "mom, dad does NOT do that much stuff" (I was teasing him about his spending habits before we got married :-) 

Yes, these are my treasures.

They are not pets.

And don't get me wrong, I love animals. I'm the weirdo you see helping earthworms cross the sidewalk. I have risked my life in order to rescue (out of traffic) dogs, cats, turtles, squirrels, baby birds, name it. The only living things I can manage to destroy without feeling guilt are mosquitoes, roaches and fleas (I don't think I've swatted flies more than 5 times in my life). I love pets. I had so many pets growing up that my poor siblings who still live at home try hard not to resent me for it because when they ask my parents for a pet the standard reply is "sorry, Kelley got 'em all."  I tried to make up for it this Fall by letting Courtney get a fish while she stayed with us for a month. Unfortunately, Jasper passed onto fishy heaven the day before Courtney was supposed to take him home. I didn't cry, but Karis did (she is her mothers daughter).

Hopefully you get my point. I am not a cat hater. The one thing I do not like about cats is that they kill other creatures. And they do it for fun. And they do it with pride.

Besides that, I like cats.

But you can't put cats and children in the same category. Even IF children could be classified as pets, it would be like saying "Rollerskates NOT Cars." I'm happy you like your rollerskates but please, don't insult my Ferrari ( van). There is no comparison. 

So this bumper sticker really got my thinking. A lot. And since I had just downed a really large coffee and the caffeine put my brain in hyper-drive I have been contemplating this all evening. It made me think....

Why DO we have kids? Why do we, as Americans, have kids? Why do we, as Christians, have kids? Why did I have kids? 
And the more I thought about it the more I realized how revealing that bumper sticker was. Because I think that culturally, we have kids for us. Kids have become what you "do" after you've graduated from college, married and then invested 10-15 years in a career. After you've established that you can be successful in the business world it is then a good time to have a kid. Or two. Or 1.8.

I see it in the young couple's eyes who are gleefully skipping around target with the scanner/gun/thingie as they pick out new baby "stuff" to add to their home. Or after they bring their wrinkly bundle home and take 1,234 pictures to post on facebook and read all of the well-wishes and "she is beautiful" comments. 

I see it in the mother's eyes as she pridefully announces all the latest academic accomplishments of her school-age child (she may even put a bumper sticker on her car). 

I see it in the father's eyes who live vicariously through his son's sporting events. Pride when games are won, anger and frustration when they are lost.

There is nothing wrong (in and of themselves) in the scenarios above (it is natural and good to be proud of our children for certain accomplishments) but I think it shows how the norm for our culture is to have kids to fulfill certain desires that we have. 

And that is probably why we are quick to categorize our not-so-newborn-ish child into the "terrible two's" category.

And then our school-age child as "strong willed".

And our teenagers as "rebellious". 

It is natural for us to love the fun/easy moments and distress in the difficult moments of parenting. But, unfortunately, we have so turned parenting into something about US that culturally, this is what defines us as parents.

So yeah, if kids are about us, then why not choose cats instead of kids? 

I mean, if you prefer to come home to a dirty litter box instead of this....

that is your choice! 

And if you prefer being given dead birds on your front porch instead of this....

that is your choice as well! 

(Note: I just received this note tonight. In our home we like to "out love" each other by saying "I love you the 50th-most". The appropriate reply would be "I love you the 51-most." I asked Karis what number that was that she wrote and she said "nine hundred and eighty four most."

As a disclaimer, I need to admit that my reasons for having children weren't/aren't always for non-selfish reasons. I have had a lot of self-serving reasons to have kids and still struggle to make parenting about me. About my desires, my dreams, my wants. But when I do that I insult my girls and their Creator. I put them in an incredibly small box that fits into what I want out of them instead of the amazing plan that our Maker has for them. And when I do that, we all pay. And if I don't somehow (by God's grace) raise them in His love (not my own) then society will one day pay as well.

Which makes me think of our dear lady on highway 153. I wonder when she will realize that it is a good thing some of us have chosen children over cats? Will it be before she finds herself in a nursing home? (I am assuming her cats won't be up to the task of caring for her).

If she does find herself in a nursing home being cared for by the children of those who didn't choose cats, will she see the difference between 1) those who were raised by parents who used their kids to satisfy their own desires and 2) those who raise their kids to love the God of this universe? 

And a challenge to me...if it is MY girls who end up caring for her, will she be glad that I chose kids?

I hope so. 

Anyway, our last stop before heading home today was at Target. I was excited to find a snuggly pair of what we call "footy pajamas" on clearance for $2.50 for Tessa. I honestly didn't even notice what was on the front (hey, they were soft, the right size and cheap!) 
I couldn't hold back a laugh when I pulled them out of the bag tonight....

A rather symbolic pair of pj's, if I do say so myself.