I looked at the woman reading peacefully under the tree at the park. Her kids were old enough to play by themselves and by the sound of it, were having a great time. Thoughts of envy blared in my head.
“I can’t wait until these two are old enough to play together”, I thought as I helped my toddler navigate the stairs to the platform. Once he was there, I ran around the playset to meet him at the slide where I waited to catch him at the bottom. A few feet away, his slightly older brother “drove” on the playground motorcycle.
A couple of years have passed since this scene at the playground. What I realize now is that the woman that I witnessed was probably having a rare but needed respite from two loud and adventurous boys. Now, I’m in her shoes.
Every step on this staircase of raising kids has its sighs of relief. “No more middle of the night feedings!” No more diapers!” “No more chauffeuring, they have their license!” But each step also has its challenges. “Lord, help them drive safely.” “I’m not buying you a phone. You’re too young.”
When my four oldest children were young, there was another playground we would frequent. On a particular occasion, a mindset changing thought popped in my head. “I’ll never have this moment in time back.” I remember looking around at my kids, each born around 2 ½ years from the previous one and making a commitment to relish each moment and each stage no matter what the challenges.
I decided to write this post not just to encourage moms and dads but to remind myself of this commitment that I made so many years ago. Child #5 is now old enough to care about how I cut his hair and occasionally tells me that he doesn’t like me because he has to do school work. Child #6 has decided to pick on his older brother as much as he can. The yelling and tears are ridiculous. Sigh. Just last week I thought, “Wow, it was so easy when they were younger and didn’t care about which TV show they watched before bedtime.” I stopped and caught myself. I shook my head at the irony.
One day these two will be as old as my first four who are seventeen to twenty-four years of age. I am familiar with the upcoming road, its challenges and its joys. But in the meantime, right now, I need to make a decision. The same decision that I made over a decade ago: “I’ll never have this moment in time back. I need to relish these moments and understand the Father-heart of God through them as well as help my little boys discover God in them. I need to thank God for the opportunity to have children and steward them.”
So now my heart is tearing up. I do love my children. SO much. Parenting has taught me more about myself than even marriage, which says a lot! So when the bickering starts, I’ll choose to look up towards heaven and breathe in deeply. When I hear, “I still don’t like you.” I will smile ‘cause I know better. And when they hug me from behind, I’ll pause what I’m doing and receive their clutch.
Cause it only lasts for a moment.
God, help me remember that in every difficult moment, you are my very present help. When I'm tired and frustrated, give me wisdom and peace. I surrender to the way you mold my character. Help me train my kids in the way that they should go. In Jesus' name. Amen.