By Bruce and Lauren Ashford
What a happy, life-altering, exhausting, and intimidating thing it is to be a parent of small children.
There are moments of undeniable joy and laughter—holding your newborn, hearing him laugh for the first time, singing to her, teaching him to walk, experiencing her first words. Who doesn’t have fond memories of their child saying, “I love you mommy” or “Hold me Da-Da”? Who can forget the first time their small child opened the baby powder on his own, dug through her mother’s pocketbook without her knowledge, or bit into a slice of lemon unawares?
But joy and laughter are not the only thing our children “bring to the table.” They—toddlers especially—also alter our lives in ways we could not have easily imagined. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d know this much about Dora the Explorer. Little did we know that we would spend a third of our time as “toddler parents,” touching things in our house and wondering why they’re so sticky. Nor did we know we’d spend the other two-thirds scraping goldfish off the car seats and exaggerating our enthusiasm about little Junior’s latest offering on the potty.
So little kids are small bundles of joy who alter our lives. But they are also exhausting. “Everyone should have kids,” Ray Romano once said. “They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born, and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.” In fact, as I (Bruce) have observed my wife’s devotion to our small children, I’ve concluded that mothers of small children are guinea pigs in a grand sociological experiment to show that sleep is not necessary to human existence.
And then, on top of all of this happiness, life-reorganization, and exhaustion, there is the intimidation factor. Who among us—in the realm of small-child-parentdom—hasn’t recognized the pressure involved in being a role model for our young children? We are often reminded of our own shortcomings and of the fact that our small children will very soon be big children and then, after that, no longer children at all.
One of the most significant reminders of our shortcomings is the fact that children are natural mimics who act like us—their parents—despite our fervent efforts to teach them a good attitude and good manners. They have extraordinarily good memories; in fact, they easily repeat word-for-word what we shouldn’t have said.
Happy. Life-altering. Exhausting. Intimidating. But also receptive. Children are little sponges who are ready to absorb what we teach them. They stand ready each day to receive in their memory banks the deposits we will make.
Their receptivity is something upon which we should capitalize, and some of the most ordinary or regular moments in the parenting calendar provide a great opportunity to do so. One of the ways we capitalize upon their receptivity is to use annual holidays (which tend to be exciting for small children) as special moments to teach our children about Christ and his gospel.
That is the thesis of our new little book, Every Holiday a Holy Day, that the annual calendar provides a wonderful opportunity to shape our children’s hearts and lives. We hope that you find it helpful, from one parent to another.
To download it for yourself, head over to Southeastern Seminary’s Intersect Project and learn how you can download it for free.