On a recent family road trip, we stopped at least once an hour. No exaggeration. By the fifth potty stop for the same child, it was all I could do to hold my tongue as we walked to the restroom. I felt impatience filling me like a balloon, and I was about to burst.
I can’t even tell you which rest stop it was or what state we were in, but the Lord reminded me of this verse tucked into Genesis, “I will lead on slowly…at the pace of the children” (Gen. 33:14). Regardless of Jacob’s intended meaning, his words slow me down every time.
At the pace of the children…
When my son can’t find his shoe and everyone else is in the car.
When my daughter takes twice as long to eat her lunch as the rest of her siblings.
When my two-year-old decides to potty-train, something I didn’t write on the agenda for the first week of school.
When one child takes longer to learn to read than other siblings.
When a sleepy toddler needs to be carried halfway through a family walk.
Whenever I feel like a child is slowing me down; whenever my plans or time schedule are interrupted; whenever my children move slower than I prefer, I remember—
At the pace of the children.
Isaiah says that God is like a shepherd who will “gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11). God is gentle, displaying great forbearance and patience with us.
And these truths deflate that balloon inside of me, the one so close to bursting. So much more is at stake on this parenting journey than reaching our destination at a certain time.
How I think about, speak to, treat, and behave when my child’s bladder is full matters. Will I display love, patience, forbearance, and kindness? Or disdain, impatience, rudeness, and angry words?
Will I treat my children as I’ve been treated? Will I remember my Savior’s patience with me? Will I build margin into our life together?
What will my children remember from our road trip? What will they remember from their childhood?
After our bags are unpacked and the car is unloaded, I stop my husband and thank him. I thank him for leading us home at the pace of the children. And I thank God for being patient with me.
A version of this post first appeared on the Loving My Children blog in 2019. When I wrote it, I couldn’t have imagined how many opportunities 2020 would give our family to adjust our pace. Even though past months have looked so different (no long road trips for our family!), we are more aware than ever of the importance of displaying godly love and patience in our words and actions towards our children.