Licking the Bowl Clean

By Jean Boonstra

Parenting isn’t a topic I like writing about.

About the Author

Jean Boonstra is the Associate Speaker for the Voice of Prophecy. She is the author of several books, including eight in the Adventist Girl series.

View more posts by Jean Boonstra

Several years ago while at another ministry, it was suggested that I write a couple of television scripts and a booklet about parenting. It seemed logical, I suppose, since I was then in the weeds of parenting a four-year-old and a six-year-old. A preschooler and a first-grader. I was at the stage of parenting where my world revolved around filling sippy cups, driving kids on field trips and tackling endless mountains of laundry. I agreed to the project but it never felt right. I may have been snowed in by the duties of parenting, but that didn’t mean I had a clue about what I was doing. I definitely felt underqualified. 

My hesitation to talk about my experiences as a parent continues, although stories about our girls do slip out occasionally. Last night I experienced one of those parenting moments that I just can’t help sharing. 

Our youngest and I were baking. As I carried the dirty mixing bowl to the sink, I ran my finger around the edge of the bowl picking up the remnants of our baking, licked my finger and put the bowl in the sink. Naomi caught my eye as I turned around and she blinked at me in silence for a minute. Then she said, slowly, as the thought seemed to evolve as she uttered it, “When we were little, you used to always let us lick the bowl. I thought it was because you were an adult and didn’t want to lick it.” Her blue-green eyes enlarged, "You let us do it because you love us, not because you didn’t want to.”

Of course she was right. It’s not that I minded not licking the baking bowl clean—my waistline hardly needed all those extra calories over the years—but I’d never intentionally thought about it either. I just knew they’d want to lick the bowl clean, and I never thought about myself. Having my teenager make that connection stopped me in my clean-up. I reached up (yes, at 14 she’s much taller than me already) and gave her a big hug.

I believe God designed us to raise and nurture our young for many reasons. First, to keep us humble. There is nothing quite like seeing my own faults relived in my children—I’ve had many humbling experiences with that over the years.

God also created us with the capacity to procreate to draw us closer to Him. I have stayed up late sewing on buttons, hot-gluing clay to cardboard displays, drying tears and matching socks. All while I would have much rather been in bed sleeping the deep uninterrupted sleep of the childless. I have postponed further education and bypassed trips to destinations on my bucket list because those choices were better for my family. I never thought twice about those decisions, although the sewing on of buttons always makes me grumble. 

I, a sinful and mostly clueless parent, made these decisions easily and willingly. How much more does my Heavenly Father care for me? The depths of His love and His capacity to love are unimaginable for me. My children help me to understand it just a tiny bit better than I would have without them. My girls know my many flaws. When Naomi recognized my choice and had a glimpse of my mother’s love, my heart soared. How God must weep when we start to see His love—to survey the vastness, the depths and recognize it is bigger than we can comprehend.

I still wonder daily about how to do this parenting thing. With two teenagers in the house, I am learning that everything I thought I had figured out has all changed. Except for the mountains of laundry. The only difference there is that they can now do their own laundry. Progress.

"I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:18)