When my kids were little, and I’d be walking the whole group of them through the narrow aisles of the grocery store, I always attracted a lot of attention. Strangers would often smile at my crew as they tried to dodge around us. There was the drooling baby, just learning to sit up in the cart. Then came the toddler and preschooler, each holding on to one side of the cart, and under strict instructions not to let go. Finally, there was my oldest, the responsible 7 year old, walking along just in front of us. Oh, we made quite a scene indeed.
Some strangers didn’t smile though. They seemed to feel sorry for me and they’d say, “well you have your hands full, don’t you?” That statement never felt very helpful to me. Of course, I had my hands full! I had four kids under the age of 7 and I was taking them grocery shopping! By the time I finished those expeditions to the grocery store I was often a sweaty, stressed out mess, promising to break open the package of cookies I’d thrown into the cart. Even though at the start of the trip I had stated with absolute certainty, “we don’t need treats this time!”
But there was one other statement that truly got under my skin. It was when parents would look at my brood and say knowingly, “oh enjoy it now, honey. Just wait until they’re all teenagers!” I heard it so often from parents farther along than me, that prophecy of doom and gloom. I didn’t want to believe it. Nor did I want to see it lived out in my own family.
So I decided to do something about it.
That’s when I began to pray that God would provide ways for me to deeply connect with my kids and to truly enjoy them through every stage of my time with them. Because if I believed the words from Psalms 127:3 that
children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him,
then I needed to believe that God could make all the years of parenting my children wonderful.
That’s when I started hiking with my kids. At first I thought it was just a way to escape the ever present chores that weighed on me when I was at home. The laundry to wash and fold, the meals to cook, and the pee sprinkles on the bathroom floor often kept me from being fully present with the kids. But getting outside and away from the to-do list really helped me engage with my busy crew. Those hikes started out short and easy, more of a walk really. But with each one our stamina increased. Far more important, though, was our growing enjoyment of being together out on the trail. God was answering my prayers.
One of the reasons I love hiking and walking with my kids is that it provides so much space for connection. As we pick up shells, point out birds, admire trees, and share the thrill of finding a really awesome bug or snake, we connect with our Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. — Psalm 19:1
We also connect with one another. When we walk there is a lot of, “hey Mom, look at this!” and each of them falls in step beside me, telling me different things on their mind. Someone always walks up beside me and slips their hand into mine for a minute or two. I make a point of ruffling their hair, of hugging them, of looking into their eyes and saying, “I love to be with you.” No one is plugged into anything but the world around them and into each other. It’s a precious, sweet time, and one I value and protect more fiercely with every passing year.
The older my kids are getting, the more I recognize the critical importance of this ritual we have made together. It was my prayer that as they became teenagers that we’d stay connected, and would enjoy spending time together. What I have found is that because we’ve been doing this since they were small, none of us feel awkward or uncomfortable on our regular hikes together now. Intimate talks don’t feel forced because we aren’t going somewhere “just to talk”. This is just what we do.
When this dream first formed in my heart, my kids were one, three, five and seven. Now I have two teen boys, a girl just about to turn 12, and another son aged 9. I rejoice that God saw fit to cast a different vision for my family in those early years than the dreary one spoken to me by so many. Now that we’re in the middle of the teens years and enjoying it so much, I find myself dreaming of these moments of connection continuing as my children become adults! God does answer prayer! He knows our heart’s desire and He cares about us mightily.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. — Psalm 37:4
Written for Faith.Full by Greta Eskridge, author of Adventuring Together.
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How are you connecting with your kids this summer? What fun things are you doing together? We would love to hear, so come share with us! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full