Parenting: A Little Word For A Big Job
I prefer to approach this topic not as a psychologist and expert, but as a parent. I have been parenting for over 24 years. We are all on this parenting journey together. Even if we have never had our own children, our lives inevitably impact little ones in the world. I have earned the right to present my ideas, precisely because I have failed so many times, as I was learning along the way and continue to learn. I have become wiser over time, learned from my mistakes, and in the process found out that parenting can be the most challenging, rewarding, and difficult path we can travel.
Here are a few of the truths I have gleaned over my travels down the parenting road:
1. YOU Are The Expert On Your Child
You are intimately connected to your child. No one knows and understands your child as you do and no one has to live with your child, except YOU! So when you hear advice, read articles, receive comments from well-intentioned others, all this information has to be sifted through the filter of the intimate knowledge of your child, their needs, disposition, history, reactivity, family dynamics, etc.
2. It’s A Thankless Job
Let’s face it - no one hands you a thank you card or a paycheck when you’ve been up for three nights with a sick child, and the dishes are all piled up, the laundry overflowing, the kids who are not sick have made another mess they didn’t clean up …you get the picture. How about all those diaper changes, spit-up, sleepless nights, and sibling fighting?
Parenting, for me, became difficult immediately with the onset of five months of morning sickness with each child. Multiply my six pregnancies by five months, and you’ll acknowledge I’ve spent a lot of time lying in bed with the wastebasket at my side. And this is before you get to birth them!! The adoption of a child presents a different set of challenges -- complex emotions, endless red tape, financial stresses, and often dashed hopes.
3. So Why Do We Do It?
Holding your newborn for the first time or peering into the eyes of your adopted child, you see the stamp of God, right there in your arms. Surely angels and babies are close relatives! As that babe looks into your eyes, something beyond words positively impacts your heart and soul, as no other feeling in the world. The sounds of cooing, gentle rocking, and nursing (for those who can) connect us to something cosmic. Generations past have done the same, this thread of humanity that links us, to the strength of human love, the sacrifice of our needs to that of another. We are part of a larger picture, in ways that seem inexplicable, walking the parenting journey alongside others, linked to those before and to come.
This thankless job does become more thankful over time. Slowly over time children learn gratitude by observing it in you. I love it when my son thanks me for making dinner, or my daughter thanks me for buying her some clothes. And I try to thank my children for their help, and for just being them. I think our children never fully understand the sacrifice of parenting until they are looking into the face of their own little bundle of joy.
4. The Birth Of A Child (Or Adoption) Is Also The Birth Of You As A Parent
Parenting is a journey. It is transforming to watch a newborn uncurl, and wake up to the world. In a short year, the completely helpless child will learn to move, then crawl, then walk and run away from you when you are chasing them. In that short year, they learn to talk, demand, and make their needs known (insistently). The transformation is not confined to the child. There is a transformation that happens to you as well! You learn the deepest truths; experience the deepest joy and the deepest pain. You grow in ways never before experienced. In your struggle and growth as a parent, you gain wisdom, scars, and loads of love.
5. Parenting Is Not About Perfection But Perseverance
Parenting is not a short term, learn all you can, and be great-at-it job. Once you are a parent you have the responsibility as long as you live. It is a process of trial and error, and just when you think you have a sense of how the parenting process works you realize that there is constant flux. Children grow and change. Your next child is completely different and requires an entirely new approach, or your child is born with special needs. Life is always throwing you a curveball.
I once heard that children are, in some ways, similar to bank accounts. You deposit love, care, concern, time & energy, and discipline. You want them to be as healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as possible. In the process we make mistakes, many of them. But the withdrawals (mistakes) will be buffered by the many deposits you have made over time.
6. The Rewards Are Coming
Yes, it can be a thankless job on this parenting journey, but there are rewards. They come in the form of sticky kisses, words of “love you”, the feeling of belonging when you are together. You watch your child grow; you learn as they learn life lessons. The lessons that really matter.
You realize that love is so deep, and that God’s love is deeper still. You fight, you hurt, you repair. It is growth -- together.
And at the end, when life starts slowing to a halt, your children take care of you. The roles reverse, the circle of life rolls on. In the end, they may hold you, caress your hand, and kiss you on the forehead. In the end, everything you have accomplished or acquired will mean very little, as your crowning glory -- your children -- crowd around you. Your relationships -- with our family, friends, and God -- are the most valuable possessions we can have. Take some time today to recognize the treasure, embrace it, and express gratitude for those with whom you have traveled on your parenting journey.