I waited as the barista finished crafting my Wild Berry Mocha, looking around at the gift items on display in the coffee shop. A cute mug caught my eye. I stepped closer to read the message printed on it:
“What’s the hardest part of parenting?
Without a doubt…
It’s the kids.”
I chuckled to myself, snapped a photo of it, and sent it to my daughter. She’s pregnant for the first time, and I knew it would make her laugh, too. I grabbed my beverage and headed out to finish my errands, smiling, still thinking about that message…
Parenting was easier before I had children. I felt prepared, confident I had thought through most of the important issues, and was determined to do a better job than I saw others doing.
Then I actually had a baby…
And then two more.
I went from feeling fairly confident that I had “all the answers” to realizing that I didn’t even know what the right questions were. My life felt out-of-control. I like things neat, in order, in line. Kids are born with different ideas and schedules. They like things NOW. Or they don’t like anything. And they demand so much of your time!
It took more years than I’d like to admit for me to realize this: parenting is not just about growing and changing the child—it’s also about growing and changing the parent. I didn’t know I was a selfish person until my kids needed so much from me. I didn’t know I was an angry person until my kids made me so mad! I didn’t know I had so many “rules” until my kids kept ignoring them.
God used the experience of being Mom to 3 of the most fabulous human beings I’ve ever met—3 people whom I would absolutely lay down my life for—God used that to teach me what love should look like. The importance of commitment, the beauty of service, the grace of selflessness.
These were not things I had anticipated being part of the parenting process. They’re not natural. But the act of lifting a weight doesn’t merely pick an object up from the ground—lifting a weight also builds muscle in the body of the one doing the lifting. Strength, endurance, discipline. Learning to put my children’s needs ahead of my own wasn’t necessarily “natural” for me. I actually had to work at it. Choosing to view their weakness and immaturity with compassion and grace, rather than resentment.
I needed to lean on the Lord for that compassion, strength, and endurance—I needed to learn as much as my children did. I needed to grow and change, too.
Back to that cute coffee mug—for me, the hardest part of parenting was not the kids. Actually, it was the process of growing up for me, the parent.
But that message probably wouldn’t sell many coffee mugs…