As I was duct taping the bumper today, I thought as I often do, “Am I on Candid Camera?” The stuff of my life is often too wacky to seem for real. Or maybe a better thought, “What if my life had a laugh track to remind me to take it all lightly?”
Oh, for that I do have two handy teenagers. No roses, no thanks, no sentimental expressions of love for Mother’s Day this year. “ Mom, I can’t believe you had a baby. Babies are parasites living off your own well-being. That’s just gross,” stated my seventeen-year-old daughter ever-so-sweetly. My snappy reply: “Yes you are a parasite. The cutest parasite I’ve ever loved.” As my friend Lance says, “That’s comedy, folks.”
Doesn’t it feel like we parents are, indeed, being sucked dry by parasites? On better days, we simply feel overwhelmed, as if parenting is beyond our coping ability, beyond our wildest imagination. Or we just feel worn out. Did anybody warn us about: the piercing flash of love you feel for a newborn, then days later the midnight desperation of caring for a colicky infant? How about the uncertainty of dealing with demanding toddlers in public, the stress of managing family sports schedules, or the anxiety over idiotic moves teens make? I wasn’t prepared, that’s for sure. My own mother’s favorite lines fail me now, “You just have to stay one-half step ahead of them.” Or those she used when I was a kid, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Or “it won’t be equal, but it’ll be fair,” or was it “It won’t be fair, but it will be equal.” (I think she resorted to confusing the four of us as a last ditch effort.)
What do I think I need to cope and to thrive as a parent?
A go-to support team. Good friends or kind people who will pat me on the back, laugh with me, cry together, pray with me, and say “it’ll get easier, “ even if that might only be wishful thinking. Maybe your siblings, small group from church, or the hospital birthing class. People who can help you laugh again.
Time apart. I need my husband to tag team during a crisis, fight, or tantrum, to tap my shoulder and say, “Take a break. I’ve got this.” And if you’re a single parent, I hope you find a friend who will swap a few hours after work or weekend overnights or so you can get a break. We all need a chance to breathe and to renew our souls apart from shrieks of “Mommy. Mommy!” We need to be able to develop our own interests, too, in order to learn or relearn how to be our best selves. It’s amazing the improved perspective we can find after a little sleep or a long run.
Caring, safe adults to love our kids. We need people who will show our kids how to grow into responsible citizens, or at least people with a fun sense of humor—especially when we lose ours with the teen years. They need people who will cheer for them on the sidelines or in the auditorium. People whose faces light up when they see our kids, who greet them by name, who genuinely ask how they are and follow up. Our kids need faith mentors—to know others who also know God. Reggie Joiner calls this “widening the circle” and if I could only own two parenting helps, they’d be Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carrie Nieuwhof and Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster Cline.
Faith and Hope. Ultimately, beyond the daily basics, lessons, and comforts we provide for years, we launch and let go of our kids in faith, with hope and a prayer. God is responsible for how our kids learn and grow–and thankfully God loves them far more than even we can. In Sticky Faith, which I also give my highest recommendation–Kara Powell encourages parents to find God’s hope and redemption even in hard circumstances:
The odds are great that your child will ‘cross the line,’ or for some of our kids, catapult over the line. What do we do then?... Don’t panic. There are very few issues you will face as parents that are irredeemable, even the biggies…. Take the long view. The ultimate hope that is part and parcel of trusting God is the hope we have that in the long run, God’s mercy will win. We many not see it or experience it exactly the way we want to for months, or even years but trusting Christ means we believe that He is at work, bringing healing and redemption to the most hopeless of circumstances.
I also need a bottle of ibuprofen, duct tape, a good ER, and a solid 529 plan, but I’ll leave it for you to fill in the blanks. What do you think you need as a parent?