When I was on my mission, I was on exchanges once with our zone leaders. The zone leaders covered a young single adult ward, and they had a dinner appointment that night with a family I didn't know. When we got there, the whole time there was this very friendly six-year-old girl named Katie who would come up to us and ask us questions and tell us how her day at school was and show us her stuffed animal and so on. At first it was a little annoying (you could see her dad with a tired look on his face sighing as he hopelessly tried to stop her from "harassing" us), but slowly the persistent, impetuous annoyance turned into something different.
At another time, Elder Camerone* and I were visiting a new family who had just moved into our ward. While we were sharing a spiritual thought and asking if they knew anyone we could teach, their little three-year-old walked in, laden with toy cooking utensils and necklaces that she wanted us missionaries to hold so she could play some sort of game. At one point, Elder Camerone jokingly said, "She wants to play make believe? Her entire world is make believe!"
At yet another time, I was in the car with a family that had a little three-year-old boy that was known for being rowdy and hard to manage. I'm pretty convinced his mother is an angel for dealing with him, his younger sister, and being pregnant with another one on the way. It was near Halloween, and Dad points out, "Cameron, look at that pumpkin. It has hearts for eyes!"
And Cameron says, "That means he loves somebody!"
Mom says, "Who does he love, Cameron?"
After thinking for a few seconds, Cameron says proudly, "All of the other pumpkins!"
I have no idea exactly what raising kids is like. I've never been married and I've never had a kid myself. But I'm starting to get an idea of the joy they bring, and that it is worth the labor and headaches and frustrations. Something's changed over the last few years, and I know that I really want to be a dad someday and have kids of my own. I want to be their best friend and their ally, their Superman, the guy who scares off the robbers at night, the one who tells good bedtime stories and who makes time to be there for them, and so on. A tall order for sure, but not a problem with God's help.
I sometimes wonder what the multitudes were thinking when Jesus told them they had to become as a little child to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Some of them might have been thinking, "That child?! Those little brats? What qualities of a puking child qualify someone to make it to Heaven? Why not someone educated, certified?"
Then again, the Savior doesn't slap us for trying to take a few baby steps and failing. He only asks that we try again. He doesn't lambaste us for the dirty diapers we leave Him to clean up -- He just asks that we try harder not to make those messes in the future. He understands that our prayers are often filled with the mindless drama and complaints arising from our very limited and presentist perspective of life -- in fact, He wants us to pray about those mundane details.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as I grow up, I more and more enjoy being a child of God, and I want to give that to my own children. Kids are amazing, and I hope our societies and governments realize the importance of families because children have so much to teach us. As I learn more about how to raise children, I come to feel how much God loves me and those around me -- not because I deserve it but because I am His child. Kids are amazing because they remind us of our own identity, especially when other people, philosophies, governments, or media try to redefine it.
When I see myself and other people as children of God, it's very liberating. I don't have to berate myself for judging them or focus on their faults. I don't have to be ruled by social norms that define ingroups and outgroups, nor do I have to be part of them. De facto inclusion in God's family at all times is not restrictive to me; it is the one thing that connects me with other people when so many forces want me to push them away. It truly is the only connection that survives all divisions of race, color, intellect, economics, politics, and spatial geography. And I'm grateful I never have to lose that.
* Names have been changed.