Looking down at the two young children clinging to my pant legs, the elderly woman remarked, “When they are little they step on your toes. When they are grown, they step on your heart.” I looked at her in horror. “Don’t tell me that,” I thought. “That would mean everything I’m going through, pouring my life into my children is all for nothing.” Forty-plus years of parenting later, I understand what she was saying. She was right. Parenting is hard. I was wrong. It is worth it.
When your children are small it’s easy to believe this phase will never end. Newborns feel like a life sentence of sleepless nights. Nursing babies bring with them physical demands you never dreamed your body was capable of. Then, it all slips into the toddler years. From eating rocks to scaling the highest peaks of your furniture–keeping them alive is daily challenge. That’s when we think, hope, and pray —surely, this parenting gig gets easier. Or at least ends at some point—right?
You see, because we will always love our children, no matter their age or stage of life, we will continue to face their life challenges alongside them.
Just as there are developmental stages your child goes through, so too does your parenting go through different phases and roles. You never stop being a parent. What does change is your responsibilities.
There are distinct seasons of parenting. As I mentioned above, we begin with the early years of childhood. The challenges are intertwined with keeping them safe, healthy, and cared for all while trying to keep your sanity. Young parents navigate many new relationships all at once. Often times young marriages and young children go hand-in-hand. It can, and often does, feel overwhelming. That’s where I was when this stranger uttered her assessment of motherhood.
Today I can’t remember what that woman actually looked like, only what she said, and the pain in her eyes. You know the look. Her gaze was cast at my children, but clearly, the images she saw were shadowy projections on the walls of her memory. Her sadness could have been for many reasons. Because we love our children so deeply, there is a lot of room for heartache and disappointment.
Real love always carries the risk of heartache, parenting is no different.
The most common mistake we make when our children are disobedient, sinful, or captured by addictions, is that it is our fault.
The reality is that no matter how much of a success our parenting is, or how badly we believe we failed, our children have their own choices to make. We are no more responsible for their failures and short comings than we are for their successes. And yet, we tend to blame ourselves.
We are flawed people raising imperfect people. If we could raise perfect people, they would have no need of a savior. We can’t, and they do.
Only our Father in Heaven is the perfect parent.
Arguably, God the Father is the perfect father. He created man and just think about how we have broken His heart over and over. Yet, He loves us. He welcomes us with open arms. He accepts our repentance. He loves us so much, even in our sin, He sent Jesus to die for our sins, that we could not be separated from Him.
As my children grew, it helped me to remember that when God placed Adam and Eve into the garden, He had a good relationship with them. He walked with them in the cool of the evening. They had the most intimate relationship a human can have with their creator. Nevertheless, they went their own way. They disregarded what their creator had said, and distorted it. They were separated from God.
God the perfect father, had children who rebelled, and fell into sin.
Parenting is hard.
There are no guarantees that it will always be hugs and butterfly kisses. However, we have been gifted with the same love God the Father has for us, for our own children. We can also rest in the fact that God loves our children more than we do. Ultimately, He is their perfect parent. Not us.
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Rhonda Robinson is Producer of Digital Content for Inspiration.org‘s Family Section
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