Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Paradox of Parenting

I realized tonight that parenting is a true paradox. It is the greatest joy and toughest challenge you'll ever face.

I used to read passages like the Genesis' account of the first marriage with joy... "A man with leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife." I couldn't wait for the day that Chuck would cleave to me. But now, I'm realizing someday I'll be the one who is left behind, that someday my sons will get married and not need their momma anymore. When Charlie was first born, I thought, "Wow I can't wait for the day you grow up and aren't so dependent on me." But now, I am sad that he's growing up so fast. Today we went to the Guadalupe River, and unlike times in the past when I've had to hover over him so he wouldn't get hurt, this time I just sat on the shore and watched. It's like I blinked, and he went from a toddler to a kid. And he's not as physically demanding on me anymore. He's too heavy to carry, and he's too busy to want to be cradled. So this evening, when he asked "Mommy, lie down" (with him until he fell asleep), I granted his request. And I cradled him. It's crazy to think that 2 years ago, he demanded so much from me, and now I'm grieving that he doesn't need me much anymore. I laid there thinking about how I should enjoy this now, because it's becoming more and more rare that I get a chance to hold him, and someday he's gonna be too big to hold altogether. Someday he'll be a man, and I won't be able to hold my baby anymore.

Suddenly I understand my parents a lot better. I get it now, why my mom recounts that on the first day of kindergarten, when all the other kids were crying and begging their parents to not leave, I turned to her and said "Bye Mommy," and went to find my place in the classroom. She said she cried the whole way home. I think I was always wanting to be independent, to need no one. But now the thought that my son is so much like me...hurts. The tables are turned and I don't like it...

Parenting is a huge challenge, in every respect. People always told us before we had kids, that they'd change everything. No kidding. When you get married, you think marriage is challenging. Getting along with another person can be tough sometimes. You have to sometimes sacrifice your wants and your needs, to serve the other person. But then you become parents, and you and your spouse hardly have time to serve each other because it takes all the two of you have to take care of your baby. It took both of us to change Charlie's diapers the first couple of weeks (one to calm him down, the other to change him).You now have to forget about your needs and wants. Life is not about you anymore. Suddenly you have little choice about when you get to go to the bathroom, shower, and you can forget about watching a movie uninterrupted. Everything in your life is subject to your child. You're the authority over your child, but you're also the slave in a way, always on call to meet his needs. Another paradox. I like how a friend put it: "Parenting exercises the selfishness out of you." It helps me realize how sinful and selfish I really am, and makes me admire Jesus all the more. How He, my authority, made Himself a slave to my needs. He left His place of comfort and took the form of a servant and made an even greater sacrifice for me than I have made for my kids. I draw a lot of strength from His example nowadays.

And when you get married you think of kids in such a romantic way. Will he (or she) have your traits or mine? It's fun to analyze, to see how the two of you have become one (person). God's design is amazing, and beautiful. And there are joys in parenting, lots of them. When I was dealing with the first few months of sleepless nights, I would think, "I just can't go on..." then Charlie would smile at me, and suddenly it was all worth it. The greatest joy, I think, will be the accomplishment of a well-rounded, secure, God-loving adult. One who understands sacrifice, and can love as I have loved him. And suddenly God's plan for my life becomes so much clearer...He wants me to love as He has loved me, to understand His sacrifice...And to raise children who can do the same. The truth is, Charlie and Chance aren't really mine, and I can't hold on to them forever. They're God's. I just have to keep it in perspective...

"I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. And this is My command: love one another as I have loved you." --Jesus, John 15:11-12

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Charlie's Challenges

Don't you wish you had a 2 year old?

Here's a recap of the week so far:

Monday:

Charlie saw Chuck pull off two ripe jalapenos off our plants, so he decides to harvest the eight other buds. He brings them to me, saying, "Cook, Mommy, Cook."

Tuesday:

Charlie watches a movie with the intention of falling asleep for naptime. When the movie ends, he takes the dvd out of the player, and puts another one in, and presses play, hoping Mommy won't realize he just lengthened his time. Later, he walks out of the bedroom, saying, "Mommy, Charlie woke-ed up". Because Mommy should be clueless and never check and see that he never went to sleep all along. I still can't believe he knows how to work the dvd player though!

That evening, as he sits beside Daddy on the couch, he begins pulling off keys to the laptop keyboard. I guess he's getting good at electronics. Then as he is told it's bedtime, he begs to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. This is a rare request, so I tell him he can make a pallet on the floor. That seems to work, until 4 am he wakes everyone up wanting more chocolate milk...

Today:

The usual occurance happened this morning: Mommy finally(!) got a shower...which meant that Charlie had to have a turn in the shower. Usually if he knows I'm about to shower, he throws a fit that his turn must be first. This time I got in without him knowing, so he kindly waited until afterwards.

Later, as I sit and feed Chance, he comes in from the porch (leaving the front door wide open to let all our cool air out, as usual), and sits on Chance's playmat, allowing his poopy diaper to drip all over the mat. The mat, incidentally, was just washed yesterday because he had markered all over it a few days before.

Then after the poopy incident, he got to choose: would he get another shower, or a bath? He chooses bath. Once bath time is over, I inform him its nap time. Suddenly he wants another shower. Once he realizes I'm not giving in to that one, he refuses to get out of the bathtub, even though all the water is drained out. I tell him I'm leaving the room til he calms down...So I find him next sitting on the bench in the bathroom, hitting the window. Thankfully these windows can handle the onslaught of a 2 year old. After a long heated confrontation which includes throwing everything off his bed (blanket, stuffed animals, book to read, etc), he's finally asleep. And I've got about 1.5 hours to recooperate emotionally until he finds something else to get into...

It's amazing how you can see that sin nature rare its ugly head at an early age. I've gotten to where reverse psychology is how I get him to do anything, because he has to feel that he was rebelling against my authority. I guess God was right when He said, "The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?"

The other amazing thing is the covenant love, the unconditional love that God gives you for your kids. He's slapped me, kicked me, thrown things at me, and yet I love him more than my very life.

So again I ask, Don't you wish you had a 2 year old?