As a result of my parents’ divorce in 1977, the people and things that have shaped our family have come from here, there, and everywhere.
For example, we open presents on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve, like my husband’s family. Also, I give everyone individual presents on Valentine’s Day, like my dad’s old girlfriend Frances did for my dad and I, during my early teen years.
She would buy chocolate from the Chocolate Tree, a gourmet chocolate shop, and hand-make turtles, chocolate-covered cherries, and white chocolate (dyed red of course) hearts, and put them in beautiful, heart-shaped boxes. No one in my family had ever been as selfless as Frances. I have never forgotten her thoughtfulness, and I strive to emulate her even today.
My parents did not have an amicable divorce. So many times parents think they are going to ride off into the sunset (often with new partners), leaving the children unscathed.
We fought all the time anyway, they say to themselves. Unfortunately, you can’t just take an eraser and remove your spouse like you would get rid of a smudge on a piece of paper. There will always be residue.
I don’t harbor unforgiveness toward my parents. Because they grew up in two-parent homes, I’m sure they never expected the “forever mess” that would follow their 1970’s no-fault divorce. I don’t think anyone from that generation could have envisioned the far-reaching consequences.
I guess the economic opportunities provided by the new feminism gave women a chance to make it on their own, while giving men a guilt-free way out of an unwanted marriage.
If you have failed in this area, or have been divorced against your will, please know that divorce is not unforgivable. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Through repentance, all that has been lost by sin can be restored. Through Christ, God restores the sinner, blots out sin and gives us eternal life.
If you messed up in the realm of parenting, strive to be a fabulous grandparent. It is never too late. If you have been wronged by an ex-spouse or parent, forgive them and start thinking about the ways you can help people that are suffering the way you did.
Anyways, let me get off the soap box and back to my story. As a result of the divorce and the fact that I moved away with my dad when I was 13, there were no female relatives around when I began my own family. I read pregnancy and child- rearing books from cover to cover.
One time a co-worker said to me, “Does it take so many books just to have a baby?” It does when you have no idea what you are doing.
Becoming a Christian
My husband and I became Christians when our first child was 6 months old. That became the biggest factor in the way we chose to raise our children.
Neither of our mothers really breast fed, or had more than 2 children. We were in uncharted waters, because we ended up being fruitful and multiplying, and of course I wanted to breastfeed.
I cannot even describe the persecution I received with my third, fourth, and fifth pregnancies. People must think they have the right to say anything they want to a woman in the family way. Although the negative comments bothered me, I often comforted myself with the story of Moses.
Even the Pharaoh of Egypt knew that children equaled power:
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land. Exodus 1: 8-10
I also understood from Psalm 127 that children were like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior, and that someday they would speak with our enemies in the gate!
Breastfeeding and Childbirth
Breastfeeding was another big hurdle to overcome. My mother-in-law says that everyone in her day used formula, and that (at the time) it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m sure that women saw it as a freeing kind of thing, just like they viewed birth control. Sometimes I wonder what kind of cultural trends I’m following, and if I will later regret them.
Luckily my Grandma Stella was still alive when my oldest was born. She had breastfed all five of her boys, until they were each nine months old, then she weaned them to a tiny, little cup. I’m not sure if all of her children were born at home, but I know that most of them were. I figured if she could birth and breastfeed five children, I could too.
My hospital experience was difficult after childbirth. With no mother to help me, my husband always had to give me that first shower after birth, help with the baby in the hospital, and with everything after we came home. There was no one to help me with cooking or cleaning either, so that I could rest.
We always argued after the birth of each baby. I was frazzled, emotional, and definitely hormonal. My perfectionist nature brought both of us much frustration. Maybe I was over compensating for my imperfect past. Looking back, I should have asked for more help from my church family.
Respite from God
With every trial, there is always respite. My dad was a great joy to me when the children were young and we were poor. He would swoop into town like Santa Claus and take us to do fun things. He always brought laughter and happiness to our lives when we had nothing but fuzz in our wallets and the scent of diapers wafting through our house.
I’m sure he often wondered about the sanity of homeschooling, and living on one income, while trying to simultaneously be fruitful and multiply. I think he secretly felt empathy for his son-in-law, and the fact that he had to provide for us all alone. Still, he was supportive of me.
My in-laws helped us a lot as well. My mother-in-law taught me how to sew, cook Tex-Mex food, and so many other things. They also planned and paid for half of our wedding when we were married in 1989. I am grateful to them for putting together such a nice wedding.
In 2007 my father-in-law began an addition that eventually gave us 500 more square feet. He always said that he didn’t love construction, but that he could do it for the people he loved.
The greatest compliment I ever got was from my Aunt G-net (as we called her). She was the only relative outside of my immediate family that ever came to SC to visit us. I think she was pleasantly surprised by our home, and the way we were raising our children. One time, before she left, she said, “Well Kristie, I guess you took some scraps and made a quilt.” That was high praise from Aunt G-net.
As our family grew, I was often swept away by every Christian trend, and sometimes caught up in other people’s convictions. I watched barely any TV for at least 10 years, skipped Trick-or-Treating for two years (after a well-meaning friend gave me an anti-Halloween pamphlet), and worried about the fact that our kids were too involved in sports.
I finally came to the conclusion that If I thought something was okay, and my husband thought it was okay, and we stacked it up against God’s word, we could ignore condemnation from other people. You can’t run a family, or anything else, on the power of other people’s convictions.
Our Life Today
Nowadays things are easier. We are reaping the fruit of our early labors. My youngest is 8 years old, so when it is time to go I can simply say, “Everyone get your shoes, and get in the car.”
Our finances have improved. While we aren’t rich by any stretch, we enjoy some long-awaited comforts. Our best car was manufactured in this decade, we have only one mortgage instead of two, and we don’t have to eat pancakes at the end of every payday anymore.
As time went by the pain from the loss of my childhood family was healed by the love and joy I experienced in raising our own children. I stopped mourning what I missed as a child and began to consider the ways I could impact my family as a wife and mother. The fellowship with other Christian moms as we struggled to honor God was, and still is, a priceless treasure.
Hope for the Future
Just as we had to create our own blueprint for parenting, we will probably create one for grand-parenting as well. As usual, I plan to gather ideas from eclectic sources. Some of the things I dream about are a Madeline (or Nanny McPhee) -type grandchild room, and a playroom filled with all of the doll houses we own.
I have a friend whose mom makes a little tree for her, filled with goodies, every time she has a baby. She also decorates a tree filled with presents for each of her grandchildren at Christmas. I am hoping to incorporate those ideas into the lives of our own grandchildren. As always, I have God to thank for my salvation, and restoration.
“Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:25
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