Parenting Four Kids Means Showing Love in Four Different Ways
Maximum Love Requires Custom Love
Written By Lindsay Gerber
May of 2010 was one of the busiest months I had ever experienced. Well, that is, before I had children! My now husband and I began new jobs, graduated college, and got married all within a two week span. It was crazy, but it was very joyful. Before my husband and I got married, we had talked about wanting children. We both came from families of four kids, so we decided that would be good for us too… God willing. We just hadn’t decided when yet. We were the naive ages of 22 and 23, so we definitely thought it was too soon. However, God had other plans. Less than a month after our first wedding anniversary, our sweet baby boy was born. Experiencing a pregnancy our first year of marriage seemed really hard at the time. If I’m being honest, it was VERY hard. The body changes, the emotional roller coaster, and the thought of all future decisions completely overwhelmed me. My husband, on the other hand, was the stability that year. I didn’t think I was my best self back then, but I now realize I was just who I needed to be to grow into the mother I was created to become.
With my first born, I went from fairly laid back to super anxious in a short amount of time. As a matter of fact, my husband even asked the nurse at the hospital if we needed to pass a test to take our baby boy home! We were naive, but we were called to this. It was time to take charge! Fast forward four years, we had given birth to two more children and experienced a loss. By year five, we were blessed to bring our fourth child into the world. Our anticipation of having a fourth had wavered by number three, but once again, God had a different plan. It wasn’t an easier plan, but it was the best plan for our family. We were so thankful.
Every birth story is different, but each one is beautiful. We had very smooth deliveries, and quickly figured out that the hard part for us would begin in years to come. The hard part, you ask? It was figuring how to parent four totally different kids. How was it possible to do in a way they would flourish? We were confronted with the truth we had been hearing time and time again: You can’t parent different kids the same way. Your family’s core values must have a strong foundation, but the emotional elements in parenting each kid will look different.
It was just last night that I asked my husband what he loved most about each of our kids. He said, “I just love how they are all so different and unique. None of them are anywhere near the same.” He then went on into details about each kid’s strengths. How beautiful is that? Each of our children has a purpose. They may work together as a team in this life, but they are not made to accomplish the same things.
I have a son who is a sports fanatic and hardworking at the things he loves to do. He’s a perfectionist. He’s had to before and is still overcoming health issues that have strengthened him. I also call him my “old soul”. When I think of how to best spend time with him, it looks like playing or talking about sports. It looks like asking him questions I may not know the answer to so that he feels his input is valuable. It looks like me reminding him that trying hard is a great quality but perfection is unattainable. It looks like consistently reminding him of his bravery in this life, and that his battles have made him stronger.
I have a son who is a smart thinker and internal processor. He is a reader and a dreamer. His strengths lie in designing and building structures. He has a tender heart, but in the most beautiful way. He has big ideas and uses his imagination like no one I’ve ever seen. When I think of how to best spend time with him, it doesn’t look like it does with my other son. It looks like playing board games and building crazy forts. It looks like reading books with him and asking him about what he’s reading on his own. It looks like building the most intricate lego structures for hours alongside him. It looks like me holding him and encouraging him when I see a certain look in his eyes.
I have a daughter who is the smallest CEO you’ve ever seen. I say that jokingly, but she is in control and loves to be a leader. She is confident in every way. She loves fashion and creating her own unique looks. She loves to organize and has a very vivid memory. If someone in our family forgets anything (and I mean ANYTHING), she is sure to remind us of it. Loving her looks a certain way. It looks like giving her important tasks so she feels responsible and in charge. It looks like encouraging her individuality and being careful to not crush her spirit. We all know how valuable strong women are in this world, but we want her to carry her confidence in a humble way. It looks like taking an interest in her ideas, by being a student in her pretend classroom. It looks like asking her to sing her favorite song, because she loves to perform.
Lastly I have a daughter who, at the age of four, is just coming into her own. It’s amazing to see that yet again, she is so beautifully unique and not like any other. She is fierce, and she is funny. She has the most dramatic facial expressions and speaks very animated. She loves telling stories and chooses to play sensory activities over anything. Loving her now is simple, but will get more specific as she grows. Right now, loving her looks like intentionally sitting with her to play play-doh or water beads. It looks like asking her what her ideas are and helping her bring them to life. It also looks like reading books to her just to have her correct you and read it back to you her own way. It looks like snuggling her at two in the morning just because she “needs mom”.
I am a mom. I am still young. I am still naive. I am still learning. What I do know for sure is that each child was created and made for a purpose specific to only them. I realize, as parents, we all know this. We look at our own children and see them in a light that no one else can. My intention is not to tell you something you already know, but rather to encourage you to keep loving your children is those specific ways. My parenting journey feels like it has just begun, but really it’s that time flies by faster than I’d like it to. I may not feel like the best mom out there, but I am the mom that was created distinctively for my four children. If you are a parent who has adopted children, you know better than I that you were made for them. In turn, they were given to me and you for the same reason. I have to continue to remind myself of that on a daily basis. If there is anything to take away from this post, it’s that you were made for your children. Our journey as parents won’t look the same, but each journey specific to the children placed in our lives. Continue to remind yourself of your purpose just like you want to honor and grow your children’s own sense of self. Also, know that each pregnancy, each adoption, each foster child, each loss, and each waiting period has been on purpose whether we can see the reason now or not. Lastly, keep looking for those specific ways you can love your child. Parenting is made to be intentional, but we have time. It starts out with simple basic needs and then leads to more complex love. Start looking for those specific love moments now, and adjust them as time goes on. As always, parents, keep choosing humility, grace, and love above all.
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