comment 0

We don’t have children, but we are not indifferent to yours.

I think we all notice pregnant women so much more during the Advent season, especially the ones who look like they’re about to pop open with life.  Pregnancy fits with Advent well, and not just because of Mary and Elizabeth—budding hope, brushes with death, and the fullness of life are all characteristics of the Advent narrative.  It’s the most appropriate, earthy, and flesh-covered image for the season.

For couples without children, though, I understand how Advent can feel a little “less-than.”  When there’s a baby on the way, it’s so easy to physically live through the longing of the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.  There are kids to share in Christmas crafts, Advent calendars, and tree lightings.  Children give you direct access to a posture of wonder, something us grown-ups could always use more of.

In our culture, too, children give families a pretty tangible reason to stay put for Christmas, whereas childless couples tend to travel (and travel and travel and travel) over the holidays.  When there are no children to keep you planted, you can get a little resentful that your own Christmas peace is under fire while you spend most of your time off on the road.

"The Visitation," illuminated medieval manuscript by the Master of the Llangattock Hours, 1450s.   The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Two very special pregnant ladies in the Advent narrative…”The Visitation,” illuminated medieval manuscript by the Master of the Llangattock Hours, 1450s. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

This week, what I call “Peace Week” in the church calendar, might be my favorite part of the Advent lead-up.  When we took communion this Sunday, we took it by intinction.  And instead of whispering the words of institution, we passed the peace.  May the Peace of the Lord Christ be with you: And also with you.

Participating in communion this past Sunday got me thinking of places in my life where I see great peace at work, and peace always seems to settle in with thankfulness.

This Peace Week, I am thankful for friends with children.

We’re not parents, which puts us in a strange in-between space in the church population.  Last year, I went to a women’s Bible study where it seemed like 80% of the women were either already mothers or pregnant.  This year, everything was reversed and I visited another Bible study where most of the women were single.   These women were/are so wonderful to me, but I still felt a bit like a minority in both cases.  In the first group, it was surprising to me to watch how the mothers were the first to let their attendance drop.  By the end of it all, when the group came to a close (as all groups do), it was just us non-mothers.

I understand why that happens, I really do.  If I had dependent human beings to take care of, who required doctor’s visits, soccer practice, school plays, and carpool, then my attendance at all events outside of work and feeding myself would be a wreck.

A dear friend of ours has a great question to ask yourself if you’re undecided about attending a gathering: “Will you be missed?”  Truthfully, I really missed the mothers when they weren’t there.  Did they not believe they would be missed?  Is that why the attendance slows down as the months push forward?  Do they think that all the rest of us are indifferent to their stories, their experiences, their pains, and their joys—just because we don’t have children of our own?

You know what, friends with children?  You are so impressive and wonderful that you are always missed.  I love your children even though I see them just once a week or maybe only through the glare of an Instagram feed.  I love and value your children and please (oh, please) don’t ever let my childlessness make you think otherwise.

Every now and then, I’ll even browse the parenting section of the bookstore to get a glimpse at what you read.  It may seem a little strange, but you’re my friend, and I want to understand what you’re thinking when you discipline your child or when you praise them.  What voices have you been hearing?  Can I be a better friend to you when I listen to those voices, too?  (Also, some of these books are terrible!  How do you stand it?)  Can I help you drown out the worst voices, the ones that make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong?  (You aren’t, by the way.)

Do you know, dear friends with children, that us childless folk are not indifferent to your children?  Yes, our lives look differently from yours right now, but we don’t just have a “passing interest” in your children.  I value the quiet of my little world made cunningly right now, but all I do is smile when your child screams like a banshee in church.  Our church is more alive and more attuned to purity because of you and your baby’s cries.  It reminds us of Gerard Manly Hopkins’ lines, “Ah! as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder.”

Even though we aren’t parents, we rejoice with you when pregnancies are announced, when babies are born, and when kiddos start kindergarten.  We are not “humoring you” when babies are dedicated in church.  We take those moments as seriously as any other parent in the congregation.  When we collectively affirm that we will support you as you raise this child to love and enjoy God, we mean it.

Friends with children, I am thankful for you this Peace Week.

{“The Visitation” is available through the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Open Content Program.}

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s