Originally posted on my friend, Charity’s blog. Reposted below in celebration of my daughter’s fourth birthday yesterday, or as another friend put it, the fourth anniversary of becoming a mommy. Here’s to many more years of walking the tight rope of the present…
Last night as I was putting my precious baby boy to bed, I was cherishing the sweetness of his face and savoring the tenderness of holding him and rocking him in the dark. Then I watched as he wiggled his finger into his nose and reached up to wipe it on my chin. Oh how quickly a moment turns.
My life is filled with moments like this these days, balancing a tension between seemingly opposite emotions and experiences almost within the same breath. Delighting in my kiddos’ goofiness while counting the minutes until bedtime. Savoring a soft baby hand on my arm until it starts scribbling on my work in permanent marker. Celebrating how engaged and patient I’d been all day until the whining hits. And just. Doesn’t. Stop.
With an almost four (going-on-fourteen) year old and a twenty-one month old (yes, we are still counting months), we are in the thick of parenting in all of its beautiful, excruciating, joyful, exhausting, delightful, frustrating, humbling, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring glory. My kids cause me daily, often moment-by-moment, to simultaneously thank God for this gift and cry out to him in desperation for help. And I think that’s probably the point.
Parenting is so hard. And beautiful. Really beautiful. But also really, really hard.
I often daydream about what life will be like as our children get older, how much more freedom we’ll have to do things as a family, how much more independent they’ll be, how much more time I’ll have to myself—then I interrupt my own daydream to scold myself for wishing away the present.
Sometimes it feels like my thoughts are walking a tightrope between two equally irresistible points, today and tomorrow. If I rush too fast or dawdle too slow toward tomorrow, I’ll lose my footing and plummet to the death of my joy. Hope is like the pole that keeps me balanced as I walk—it helps keep me moving forward, believing that what’s ahead is worth stepping toward. But sometimes all I want to do is gaze off at what I imagine to be on the other end of the rope…
I’ve always struggled to be where I am. What’s around the corner seems so much more appealing at times, even though I usually don’t know what it entails. I’ve always found myself looking forward to the next thing—graduation, college, career, marriage, moving, babies, or any new challenge. Hope for change often gets me through whatever difficulties are in my present. And let me tell you, being a mom is full of difficulties. Oodles of joy, yes. But I would be lying if I said it was all sugary cream puffs and sparkly tiaras.
My kids bring things out in me that I didn’t even know were buried inside. There’s the depth of love that my parents always told me I could never understand until I had children of my own. My heart feels so much affection toward these tiny humans that sometimes I just want to squeeze them and kiss them and snuggle every inch of them so much that I can’t even stand it. They help me slow down and play. Their delight in bubbles, airplanes, butterflies, and garbage trucks makes me look at the world with wonder through their eyes.
But there are other things that I’d rather not admit my kids have witnessed.
The anger boiling to the surface when my agenda is interrupted again.
The tone of voice I swore I would never use.
The guilt over another day when I failed to discipline consistently, let them watch too much TV or eat too much sugar.
The selfishness causing me resent how much time they demand, the dreams that are put on hold, and the sense of being trapped in a season that is just so exhausting.
The shame coming from even thinking some of these thoughts, especially knowing that these are the babies I begged God for.
Yeah, this parenting thing brings me to the end of myself. But sometimes the hardest things are the best things for us.
Having these little people always with me, needing me, watching me, wanting me is a strange and lovely protection from thinking that my life is about me. They force me to die to my selfishness daily, offering my very life as a sacrifice of love to the Giver of Life.
My kids make sure I’m authentic. My words for others mean nothing if they’re not lived out consistently at home in front of my perma-witnesses. And they see everything. And hear everything. And repeat everything.
They provide built-in boundaries. For this compulsive yes-sayer, their pull on my heart protects me from chasing every dream and ambition that crosses my mind. Few things are worth the cost of missing time with them.
They keep me humble. I may be competent in other areas, but I have no idea what I’m doing with these tiny humans. (Hence the part about crying out to God for help.)
My kids are possibly the greatest source of refinement and purification in my life. They reveal the true contents in my heart so that it can all be laid bare, out in the open where I can see myself as I really am, in all my need and ugliness and self-centeredness. And my babes reveal the heart of God to me, loving me with reckless abandon despite all that rises to the surface in my worst moments. That’s where healing begins—as shame bubbles up and grace rushes in.
As a mom, I feel stuck in between longing for tomorrow and living thankful for today. I simultaneously want to freeze these moments and fast forward to the next ones. I want to treasure this season with both kids at home and also hurry it up so I have more time to pursue things that make me feel more competent than motherhood.
I realize that most of what tempts me to hurry through this season—or this day—is my desire from relief from discomfort. Anything difficult is uncomfortable, so my natural instinct is to avoid hard things. But as I look back at my life so far, nothing worthwhile has come easily. I’m trusting that these little ones are the most worthwhile thing I can invest in, not only for their benefit, but likely even more for mine.
Even now as I write, I hear cries from the other room telling me naptime has ended prematurely. And instead of getting to choose what I do for an hour, the choice is made for me: I will cuddle and snuggle and comfort and lay down my desires for another day. And I wouldn’t want to do anything else.