Parenting is 90% on-the-job training, and just as you figure out how to do it, your child moves into the next stage, where you have to begin training again from scratch. You know who really knows how to be a parent? People who are finished raising their kids. You know who has no clue how to be a parent? People with children at home. This seems crazy. Maybe even wasteful.
I was reflecting on the inefficiency of this system the other day. I don’t remember if I was just feeling broody and dystopian after finishing that dang Divergent trilogy, or if it was a day (like so many) when I felt particularly ill-equipped for my job as a mom. I do remember wistfully recalling that distant past life of mine, when I went to work and faced each new day with the confidence and self-assurance that came from doing a job that perfectly complemented my skills and interests.
Why, I wondered, would God make moms and dads and families the way he did? Why not give the child-raising duties to those uniquely blessed souls who love to nurture and cuddle and sing and execute simple yet stimulating craft projects? I enjoyed 10-year-olds. Why not let a person like me be awesome at the fourth grade and let someone else be awesome at the newborn stage, the toddler stage, the preschool stage, and all the rest? Wouldn’t a little bit of specialization make the whole process so much more streamlined and effective?
(I have read The Giver, and I acknowledge that my alternative idea is a bit creepy. Furthermore, let the record show that since this IS the world we live in, I wholeheartedly oppose any efforts to undermine the family unit in an attempt to outsource my parenting responsibilities.)
But still. God could have set it up differently from the beginning, and I do wonder sometimes why he didn’t.
And as I’ve stewed on this question, I have landed here: It must be that the work of parenting is as much about growing ME as it is about growing THEM.
Then just today I read this at A Holy Experience, and it made met think maybe it’s not a crazy idea after all: (Because, you know, if Ann says it…)
I didn’t know that you kids would birth me deeper into God and I didn’t know that you’d drive me crazy and I didn’t know how you’d drive me to the Cross…
You all have been a furnace for my soul to know the refining, the white hot heat of real love where God always tilts off the dross. I didn’t know it till you: When you lay down self, you find the deepest rest.
The reward of loving is in the loving; loving is itself the great outcome of loving. The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing.
I’m reminded that God himself is the ultimate parent AND the ultimate specialist, and he’s carefully growing me up into the shape of his Son. A life where I only get to play to my strengths? It’s one where I’d be tempted to push his steadying hands away, insisting, “I do it myself.”
But life as Mom? It’s one where I’m out of ideas by 9 AM, where I’m done being touched by 10:30, where I’m face-down on the floor by lunch time. It’s one where I am forced to Lean In–not into myself and my own potential, but into my weakness and insufficiency, trusting that when I hand it to Him he can make it more than enough.
This getting-through-it-Grace has been enough so far: through the first First Three Months, the first day school started without me, the day we planned a baby’s funeral, the days of waiting for Baby Tres, the days of a hundred tiny slow-moving moments, through the failed craft projects and Frozen re-enactments and sixteen thousand readings of “Moo, Baa, La, La, La.”
And I’m glad to have all these written records for a day like today, when I announce to Stephen, “I’m done!” even though the kids are still awake and covered in spaghetti sauce and the dishes are dirty in the sink.
Grace is SO not efficient. But it is enough. Again.