I love the laziness of Saturdays.
I don't set the alarm. The girls want me to be in bed when they wake. On school days there is no time for snuggles, so Saturday they come running to my room. The spots on either side of me are the enviable ones, so they are claimed first. The youngest and the lightest are allowed to lie on top of me with their heads on my shoulder if they want. Whoever is last tucks herself into the crook of my knees. This is how we spend the first half hour of our weekend.
My husband makes coffee for me and cocoa for the girls. Sometimes they turn on a video right away. Today they didn't. They played in their room, all four together, some elaborate pretend-game with all their favorite stuffed animals. I made bacon, eggs and toast, and they came running when they caught the smell.
We are full of breakfast, warm and content. The girls are still playing, and their games weave in and out of each other's, sometimes together, sometimes alone. At this moment, my five-year-old has borrowed her sister's cape and is racing around the house to make it billow behind her. The nine-year-old and seven-year-old are playing senet. The four-year-old, who will not dress unless I tell her to, is cutting paper into snowflakes. In another moment, they will all be somewhere else, doing some other thing with a different sister.
I love the laughter in my home. There are screams too, and whines and shouts and sobs. But right now my home is full up to the rafters with laughter. If you wonder why people have kids, or why people have more than one, or why all the work and grief of parenthood seems worth it to someone, why that beautiful friend of yours whose clothes used to match now wears spit-up stains - the answer is here, in my house, on Saturday morning.
Or maybe it isn't. Not every home gets these moments. Some children never get old enough to laugh, or never have the awareness. If the gamble of parenting is that days like this make it worth the pain, then some people lose that bet.
Almost twenty years ago I sat at a bagel place with some friends for breakfast. They were both new wives; I was newly engaged. They both said they never wanted children; I was open to the idea. When we talked about whether we wanted children and why, I said that I wanted children for the same reason I was getting married: because I had become convinced that loving and living with someone was how most of us become good people. Faithfully loving someone over years rasps off our sharp edges, makes us kinder and more patient. Loving children, I supposed, must change us even more.
One friend's response was immediate. "That's selfish, " she said. "That's just having children for yourself."
I blinked, and gave it up as one of those conversations where we couldn't understand each other. Once you are told that committing to relationships that make you less selfish is selfish, there aren't many places for a conversation to go. (Years later, she did have children, so maybe we'd have a more lively discussion today.)
I've thought of that conversation over the years, and the reasons I gave. I still think that having children because it changes you for the better is a decent reason. But it's not the reason I think of most. Instead, I think more and more of the world to come.
Here's where faith comes in: love lasts. Rejection and death and loss happen, but love lasts. The idea of the Kingdom of God - or at least, one of the many complex ideas in the Kingdom of God - is that God has established his kingdom through Jesus, is building it through us, and will complete it when Jesus returns. My every act of love and service is a brick used to build that kingdom. What I do for my daughters, through the mystery of God, becomes an eternal part of that kingdom. My acts of faithfulness to friends, or kindness to strangers, or forgiveness for someone who hurt me - these are not dead-end acts. They are making something that lasts, even if I don't understand exactly how.
The Jesus who brings wholeness to the world also unites present and future, making our present acts have eternal significance. Wonderful days like today are not the reason I had children. I am profoundly grateful for this day, but if it never happened, my decision to be a parent would not be less wise. Serving someone else builds a world I haven't seen, but long to.
At the end of the day, the end of this day, the end of the final day - love lasts.