Today I was at the library with my two kids, Myles in the Ergo front carrier and Elias on foot. Eli wasn’t in the greatest mood. I practically had to drag him down the street to the library. Our time in the library went well though, until it was time to leave. Remember, the library is the quietest place on earth. Myles, usually a very calm baby (except for the two hours every night that he is inconsolable, but that’s another story) decided to start screaming. I had some books that Eli wanted to take home and, instead of ditching the books and hightailing it out of there, I decided to check them out even though Myles was VERY not happy. Babies cry, I thought, the library patrons will just have to deal with it. Then Elias started crying because he thought I was taking his books away. “BU, BU (book)” he cried as Daddy scooped him up and carried him out of the library. I can hear him screaming down the sidewalk. You can imagine from a library patron’s point of view what this scene may have looked like. I will spare you the rest of the details but it actually did go downhill from there.
As I was strapping my children into the car contemplating how many more years it would be before I would take both my children to the library again, a car pulled up behind our car and an older lady called out to me, “Hey, you’re doing a great job! It’s the hardest job on earth!”
I think most people in that library knew what it was like to be in our situation. I think they remembered back to when thier kids were little. I encounter very little opposition in our little town, very little criticism. Experienced parents are usually very slow to pass judgement. They have nothing but compassion, empathy and encouragement for me.
I’m convinced that parenting is one of the ways that God sanctifies us. In a way, our children exist to make us more holy. How sad would it be if we didn’t let parenting change us in the deepest ways. From the moment of birth our children challenge us and demand from us more than we think we can give. We are pushed to the emotional brink and experience love we didn’t know existed. There is nothing left but to trust God when our children grow up and become independent and go to summer camp and drive cars and scare the crap out of us.
We could also choose not to let parenting change us. We could choose to remain unaffected and emotionally unavailable for our children. We could choose not to engage with them. We could choose to ignore thier behavior. We could choose to look the other way when they misbehave, or, we could choose to manage thier behavior with harsh rules instead of grace and truth. In truth, all of these choices are the easy way and we all choose them sometimes.
I hope when I am on the other side of parenting I can be the nice lady that encourages and smiles when she see’s a young mom struggling with two kids because she’s been through the fire and come out on the other side more a more authentic person.
To be honest, I sometimes (more often than I would like) take the easy way out and not let parenting change me. Sometimes I’m tired of sacrificing, tired of breastfeeding, tired of holding, tired of making sippy cups, tired of reading another book. Then someone comes along and tells me I’m doing a good job, or Eli learns a new word, or Myles smiles at me and I don’t think I would ever trade places with anyone else in the world. Even if it’s hard. Even if God teaches me things about myself that I’d just as soon not know. It’s the best and hardest job on earth.