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

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