If there is one word to describe most parents of young children, it is this: tired.
However, the tiredness itself doesn’t always make sense. It isn’t always logical. For instance, there is this strange equation: I am less tired, less overwhelmed now with three children than I was with one (and my youngest has yet to learn to sleep all night in his own bed).
I’ve come to believe that many of the most difficult periods of parenting are like bad weather. The radar map of my early years as a mother was covered in angry reds and oranges. More recently, the forecasts have called for blue skies, occasional rain.
Is there some parenting secret to be tapped here? Have my years of experience brought me wisdom and thus fair weather?
I don’t think so. If anything I have abandoned my early intensity to always do the right thing. I have forgotten much of my new-mother knowledge.
Absorbed in the busyness of living, I can no longer recall the good advice of the parenting books I used to read. When the two-year-old refuses his bedtime and asks for popcorn instead, I sometimes remember how firm and controlling we once would have been. Now, more often than not, our evening couples time is spent in the company of a toddler. We talk over his head and share our popcorn. Maybe it isn’t ideal, but it isn’t terrible, either. He’s very cute eating his popcorn, this one is.
And yet, the “secret” if there is one doesn’t lie in a relaxation of standards or parental laziness. The weather is fair, but I’m convinced that we can take little credit for this.
The little girl who was overwhelmed by life (and so overwhelmed her mother) has shifted into the child who starts her homework as soon as she walk in the door after school, the child who makes her bed every day because she likes her room to look nice. Knowing firsthand how emotions spiral out of control, she says to me, “The girls will probably fight to sit next to Emma at the birthday party. But, I’ll be okay sitting next to someone else.”
How did this happen? And why did I assume that the weather would always be rough? Why did I listen to the well-meaning older parents who said, “Oh, just wait! If you think it’s hard now …”
Jesus has said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself.” And, yes, I find that each day does have its own trouble. But far worse than the particular trouble of each day is our despair when we believe that all we can hope for are storms. The storm is one thing, but the hopelessness that says, “morning will never come” is much more destructive.
Morning will dawn, and the one who is beaten down by life’s storms will open the door and find sunshine. Perhaps that day is coming sooner than you think?