Motherhood in Bucharest
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and being a mother, what it means to raise children and what does that look like practically. I guess I’ve thought about it a lot since moving here to Bucharest, because, well, it keeps popping up in conversation nearly everywhere we go. Our family is not huge by any means; we have four children so far, but we’ve seen way bigger families in the States. Years ago, we would have just been an average-sized family there, or perhaps on the small side of average…back when people really believed when the Bible said that children are a blessing from the Lord.
But here in Romania, and Bucharest in specific, we are a big family, o familie mare. On the subway, on the tram, on the bus, walking down the street, shopping at the grocery store, ordering șase covrigi (six pretzels), taking a train ride to get out of the city for a day or two. We get stares. And everyone asking, “Are they all yours?” Sometimes my mind thinks about some of the clever responses I read in this article, but I always smile and say, “Da!” proudly. Because I am proud of my children. They are blessings from the Lord, precious gifts He’s given us to raise up as lights in the world to bring glory to Him! And most people usually respond with, “Să vă trăiască!” Something along the lines of, “May they live long!” However, I’ve gotten a few funny looks from people as they say, “Patru!?” (Four?!) And one or two older ladies would look solemn and talk about how difficult it must be.
Sometimes it gets old being stared at or always being asked if ALL the kids are mine, but it doesn’t really bother me. What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is how much emphasis there is on external things. Are the kids’ ears covered so as to let no wind get in? No baby should be allowed to suck his thumb for any reason or it may get deformed. Girl babies should not be allowed to cry, and if they do, then the mother must not be a very good mother. Kids are bundled up in snow suits throughout fall and and winter (think of the little brother in “A Christmas Story”) with hats tied tightly under the chin. Etc.
I’m not picking on Romania either. Though the concerns about external things are different than in America, American mothers have their share of external worries: how organic or non-GMO is the food their kids are eating, how stylish are their kids clothes, are they involved in enough extra-curricular social activities? And so on. We want our kids to be physically healthy, for sure, but there’s more to life than physical health.
I feel like there is so much focus on external things when in comes to parenting. Dirty fingernails, messy hair, a McDonald’s meal on occasion is fine. The important things are the internal matters of the heart. Will your child obey the first time you tell him it’s time to go home from the park or will he sneak off and hide on the slide? Does your daughter whine every time you tell her no, so that you give in just to make her stop whining? The Bible says folly is bound up in the heart of a child. Kids are selfish, rebellious, stubborn, defiant, and whiny by nature. But we as parents are to train them up in the way they should go, so that, when they are older, they will not depart from the good way of love, submission, self-control, joy, peace, and life.
The tough thing is that you may not see the fruit of this labor of love for a while, or it may take others commenting on how loving, sharing, obedient, happy, and creative your kids are. My kids don’t always wear hats when it’s chilly outside. I let them dig in the dirt with their hands at the park, and I don’t always carry hand sanitizer with me to clean them off right away. Sometimes I forget to brush their hair. And I give them chocolate, white bread, and imported apples sometimes (Fresh Romanian apples really are superior, though). But when I’m sick, they pray for me. When one of them gets candy, they will share with another who did not get any. They love to read their Bibles and listen to worship music. They like visiting the gypsies with us to pray, worship, and share about Jesus–and then they pray for them and their family during their quiet times that they would know His love for them.
These things don’t just happen; it’s called work. Childbirth is easy compared to the lifetime of childtraining that follows. If you are a parent, you are responsible for a living soul made in the image of God. Man is interested in external things, but God looks at the heart. That’s what parenting is all about. My kids aren’t perfect (neither is their mother); they will argue, tattle, ask a zillion questions in the span of five minutes, interrupt, and whine sometimes. They’re kids. But they’re little gifts from heaven that we invest tons of time, energy, patience, and love into so that they can experience the abudant and eternal life set before them.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for being whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but full of death and darkness on the inside. I don’t want to be like that or have kids like that.
I have a lot more to say about motherhood, but I think it may just have to come in a series of posts.