Dear Parents of Young Children,
I’ve decided that your screaming toddler just might save your soul.
Think about it. When have you ever been this frustrated? Middle school and braces were hard, but this? Oh, this is waaaaaaaay worse. That was just the pang of puberty.
This is nothing less than the very refining of your soul. This is standing in the middle of the grocery store with your toddler face down on the floor telling anyone who will listen that, “You’re a very mean daddy!”
That’s what my kid says. Verbatim. Often. It feels fantastic! Yes, thank you, son. This is why your mother and I have sacrificed our entire lives, so you can tell the world we’re terrible parents because we’re not going to let you eat the frozen waffle while we’re still in the grocery store. We are horrible human beings.
Meanwhile, your baby brother is being completely ignored as he sits idly in the grocery cart. Does he even know we love him? Who can say? We just need your tantrum to stop so we can cross off every item on the grocery list and get the heck out of this place.
The deeper I venture into parenting the more I believe it’s the ultimate spiritual journey. Because, is there anything more maddening than raising tiny humans? The moment you think you have it figured out, you get your (you know what) handed to you.
That bedtime routine that worked last night? Good luck tonight. That discipline you implemented to get your kid to stop running around the house with scissors while holding his baby brother by the neck? May the Lord be with you!
Parenting is nothing less than death and resurrection on a daily basis. Every day you go for it. You try your hardest. You open your heart and you love and you give and you get absolutely destroyed for doing it. And then you go to bed, eventually, and try it all again the next day.
Because you’re made of love. And you know there is nothing you’d rather do more than sacrifice yourself for the good of another.
This is the spiritual life. Self-sacrificial love is the beating heart of the Gospel of Jesus.
I’ll never forget one Christmas morning as a kid. We were opening presents, relishing in the excess of what has become the classic American Christmas—gifts everywhere. And I noticed that my siblings and I all had a pile of gifts while my father had very few.
“Dad,” I said. “Does it ever make you sad that we have so much while you get so little?”
I know. I know. Don’t you just want to slap the little-kid-spoiled-version-of-me? I know I do.
But my Dad didn’t. He just said, “Ryan. Someday, I hope you’ll be blessed to have a family of your own. And if you do, you’ll discover that a person hasn’t really lived until he’s lived for someone else.”
There are so many ways to live for other people. And as a very wise woman reminded me last night, procreation of human beings is not even close to the only way people live for other people. But it is one way. And it is a difficult way.
So if you’re taking that difficult way today–know this.
What you do is worth it. And the sacrifices you make will come back to you as blessings in ways you cannot even imagine.
So hang in there during that grocery fit. Stiffen your resolve during that midnight feeding. And remember, there is no life like the one lived for another.
Ryan Casey Waller’s new book, Broken, is now available for pre-order through Forward Movement.
How has parenting grown you?