Living Backwards

boycrying-300x256According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the average American family has 1.86 children. Perhaps you, like me, have never figured out how one manages to have .86 of a child. All I know is that we had whole children and a lot of them.

It was not in the original life plan to have a very large family. If I had known on my wedding day that I would have twelve children I might have run screaming in the other direction. Fortunately we grow into our destiny, and the children were born one at a time.

The first four children were born in less than four years
. We had a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old, a 16-month-old and a newborn.   It was hard when they were all little but it’s not hard now that they are 30, 29, 28 and 27.

Little children are one of those tests of character that do not go away when you are tired or stressed.
 Sometimes I think that God gives us children so that we ourselves will finally grow up.

There can be difficult times in raising children, when it seems that a certain stage will last forever and we’ll never get a full night’s sleep again. We can get short-sighted and begin to long for our own convenience and “rights.” As an older mother can I share a bit of perspective?

In her wonderful book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes, “You cannot expect to have a close relationship with a teenager who, after all, is still the same person as the two-year-old you stuck crying into bed, the three-year-old you spanked and shoved aside, the four-year-old you wouldn’t listen to, the five-year-old you never shared beauty with, the six-year-old you found boring, or you ‘trained’ never to butt in, but never gave time to make a cozy and beautiful background out of which you could talk to him or her.”

And in What is a Family? Mrs. Schaeffer warns, “Neglected mothers and grandmothers may perhaps have been preparing for their own neglect by teaching over and over again that people’s sensitive feelings, and people’s need of response is never as important as clean houses, schedules, or rules and regulations.”

I have always found it helpful to live daily life with a frequent reminder of “what will I wish I had done?” It’s a good question to ask yourself, along with “If I found out I had a week to live, how would I spend my time?” If that was a reality, putting off a toddler with a saggy diaper while we are on Facebook would probably not be among the choices.   Nor would we refuse to read a book to our young children or scream at our five-year-old. Just a thought and perspective for you to consider.

Whether you have 1.86 children or ten, make sure that you are loving them and living with them in ways that you will not regret in the future. If you have regrets (as all parents do), God is in the business of restoration and repair. Look forward to where you will be someday, and then back up to where you are now. Living backwards can help you end up where you want to be.

What helps you gain perspective on living with the end in mind? Please leave a comment…


  1. I had a good friend who did just that. She had been battling cancer, and the day came when the doctors said she only had about a week to live. I did not get to see her, but from what I heard, she made sure she had individual time with each of her 8 children. She spent the longest amount of time with her youngest, who was 11 at the time. She spent the time teaching, instructing, with some breaks to drop off to sleep. I’m sure those last moments were precious to her kids.
    I know cleaning was obviously not a priority for her at that time, but I wonder how to harness that eternal perspective in the middle of regular life when the cleaning does have to be done. I guess it’s a matter of priority, and making sure the people always come first, rather than my own reputation. I want to be poured out as a drink offering for the glory of God and for other people.

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Wow. Heart-wrenching.

      I think that making a pleasant home atmosphere (which includes cleaning, cooking and laundry) is part of loving our families and making their needs a priority. The challenge often comes with our own attitude. You can enlist their help cheerfully and serve lovingly, or you can yell at everyone and get aggravated with all you have to do. I have done both! It helps to seek ways to reset our attitude and perspective along the way (and take care of ourselves emotionally, physically and spiritually so we’re not on our last nerve).

  2. Ouch! I read this tonight of all nights after shouting harshly at my nearly 3 year old who will just NOT stay in bed…gives me some perspective though, thank you. x

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      Hey, we’ve all had those times! Glad to help push the re-set button!

  3. Thank you for timely advice! I read Edith’s book about ten years ago….and wish I still had it.
    Such insights as these are so helpful when our Lord is molding us! When there are no “older” women teaching the younger women….Sometimes we have to be what we need…swimming along in a strong current of today’s world is no easy matter for our young women today. And encouragement like this is such a blessing! Thank you dear sister!

    1. Charlotte Siems says:

      I love Edith Schaeffer’s writing! Her books shaped me as a young mother. Glad to encourage you.

  4. Thanks for the timely reminder. We leave in the morning to go to a cousin’s funeral. She was 46 and leaves behind a loving husband and 2 daughters, 17 and 11, as well as a host of family. She fought a hard battle for 5 years in a very loving, amazing, and God-honoring way with such grace and faith. Thanks, too for the reminder of the “re-set” button. I find myself sometimes beating myself up because I didn’t do this, didn’t do that, “woe is me” kind of thinking when I need to just confess my sins, thank God for loving me, and start over. Again.

    Life is too short for (fill in the blank). Thankfully, eternity with the Father is not!

  5. Thank you for saying so. I now have 5 children (17, 14, 10, 2, 5 wks) and would never have imagined myself having “so many” let alone wanting more. Our littlest has cried more than all our others together and it has been ever so trying and tiring. But, when I am thinking clearly, I remind myself how quickly this will pass and that it just may be the last newborn cry that I am holding, for in a blink of an eye he’ll be 17. May the Lord keep the brevity of this life ever before my eyes and teach me to savor every small moment.

  6. TheSweetOne says:

    Oh my goodness!!! May the Lord Bless all of you. Charlotte — THANK YOU. With momma’s day coming around – even though this year (I don’t know why) my heart is not making a big deal of it — many things have happened in our family in a year (long story) maybe that’s it. Anyway … I read a devotion just a while ago, and the Lord gave me a wonderful, precious promise: Isaiah 54:13, “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” (NIV) Thank you all for reminding me to act in love (for I do love my children), Charlotte said (replying to Denise) that we need to take care of ourselves in every way, I think that really makes the difference in how we treat those we love (and who need us) the most. I also try to keep in mind that … a GENTLE and quiet spirit is of GREAT WORTH in God’s eyes. (1 pet 3;4). Hugs and prayers from Honduras, CA.

  7. Erin Roehm says:

    Just this week, I’ve been thinking about how selfish I get sometimes and wish for my convenient “rights” back. Like the right to put everyone on hold while I clean the kitchen and vacuum. Or getting irritated because the kids have watched enough tv and I can’t get everyone to get along long enough for me to make dinner.
    They really are the joys of my life and I very much long to have good relationships with them as they get older (they are 4, 2, and 1 right now)
    This is a very timely note that, I hope, will help me get a bit of a reset. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  8. Charlotte Siems says:

    We all have those times! And we all need perspective from time to time. So glad to encourage you!

  9. Thank you for this timely article. From time to time I yell at my 2 year old and completely regret it. It’s usually about me though not him. Maybe I’ve had a bad day at work or something. One thing I do have down pat though is making him a priority. I know it’s not possible for everyone but I’ve hired a cleaning lady. She’s my neighbor who owns her own business and is quite reasonable. I’ve cut other things to cover the cost (for example I don’t buy coffee out all the time everyday, I bring lunch to work, etc.) I think we all have things we can eliminate in our budget. It’s all about priorities! I don’t want to spend 3 days at work then the rest of the week cleaning. My little guy is far more important!

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