Once, many years ago, I knew a woman who frequently criticized my parenting style. She felt I was too strict and wanted to know why.
"You put your kids to bed at 7!? Why so early?" She shrieked one day.
"Well, they need their sleep."
"I let my kids stay up as late as they want." She responded.
"Oh." I wasn't surprised.
"I like to spoil them." She gloated.
As myy mind immediately recounted all the horrible experiences I'd had with her children, I tried to keep a straight face.
She went on, "After all, that's the whole reason to have kids... so you can spoil them."
I didn't know how to respond to that, so I chose to keep silent. I suppose I could have gone on about the plan of salvation, or the need for spirits to have bodies but I didn't think she actually cared. So I just smiled.
That conversation led to years of contemplation on my part. From a gospel stand-point I understood the significance of child rearing, yet on a personal level I was still struggling to respond to her. I wondered what I would say if I were confronted with the same question again.
What was the purpose of having children? Why are we commanded to bring children to this Earth? Is the purpose of bearing children only to further God's Plan?
I argued with myself that God rarely worked in such a way. In fact in most things He has more than one reason for His commandments. Usually He asks us to do things to:
A) Test us.
B) Help carry out His plan.
C) Improve/teach us.
I decided that there was more to the raising families than I was seeing. I just couldn't put a finger on what.
* * *
All these thoughts were running through my head one day recently as I was laying on my bed nursing my baby. Her beautiful hands were flying all over the place in search of my hair and her little eyes were slowly rolling back into her head.
I could hear the pitter-patter of my 3 year old coming towards the room.
"Read to me, Mommy." He begged from behind the pile of books his arms could barely hold. He climbed up onto the bed and deposited the books in their usual spot behind my head. I grabbed the first one and began to read. As I did so my son's little hands began to stroke my hair and arms.
In that moment I realized I was surrounded by love, and it wasn't just any love--it was pure love. A love that I could only receive from two sources: my children and my Father in Heaven. I suddenly realized why God had given me a family--He wanted me to understand His love.
I looked back through the years and remembered every smile and laugh. I remembered every small hand I'd held and every slobbery kiss I'd received. I was stunned by the full force of my children's love for me and I realized that I had been loved completely and unequivocally for years.
The baby yanked my hair and I was brought back to the present. I smiled and kissed her head. I hugged my three year old closer and read his story just a little louder.
I thought back to that ornery, confused woman I had known and wished I could have given her the answer I now had--I didn't have children to spoil them, I had children to love them, and, in turn, to learn love from them.
The Great and Random Ramblings of Cannwin