Sunday, May 14, 2017

Parents are Idiots.

It feels like trying to defuse a bomb.

No, seriously it does.

Or maybe it's the feeling Bond has when he's trying to extract the core from a nuclear missile, or whatever.

It's the feeling that one wrong move means everything is going to pieces.

That's how I felt as I drove home trying to get my slightly feverish son, Logan, to fall asleep in the car. He's not a great sleeper to begin with, and even though it's a perfect day and the sun warms the car while the AC cools it and the rolling roads keep the car rocking smoothly as I carefully navigate the turns, I fear he'll stay awake back there until over-tiredness sets in and the screaming begins.

I check the mirror every 30 seconds or so as we head towards home. I want to see if his heavy eyes have shut, if the yawns have ceased and been replaced by a chubby double chin as his head nestles into his chest.

I'm cautious around every turn. Don't hit the brakes too hard, don't accelerate too fast, cut the green wire not the red one!

30 seconds pass so I check the mirror again. Not yet.

30 more. Head bobbing back and forth.

30 more. Asleep. 

Victory. I exhale, feeling like I just navigated The Hurt Locker.

I keep checking every 30 seconds or so. This time because I enjoy knowing he's asleep. I look back on this bald headed, big cheeked, toddler and the most indescribable feeling I've ever felt suddenly takes over.
It's like my heart is growing, full to bursting with a feeling far happier than joy. Its a soul-crushing, heart-expanding, tears-fill-up-your-eyes, kind of joy that just absolutely ruins me. There's a pride that overwhelms my senses - a feeling of accomplishment - but not in myself. Not selfishly, like he's asleep so now I'm happy.
More like, he's asleep so now he's happy.
I wish you could feel it. If you have kids I think you have. It's why parents wouldn't trade anything in the world for their kids. No matter the sleepless nights, the restricted schedules, the bed time fights or the daytime tantrums.
When you hold your sleeping baby, or see your sleeping child - the feeling is indescribable. Everything is worth it because this little creature, the one that took nine months to get here. The one you prayed for, or we're surprised by. The one who challenges you every single day is experiencing a sensation most adults have forgotten - contentment.
I've reflected on this a lot this past year. 

I mentioned my son is not a great sleeper. I don't handle it that well - my wife handles it with a supernatural grace. Like a Ginger Rodgers dancing on two turtle-doves while the Hallelujah Chorus is sung by 12,000 holy Angels kind of grace.
I'll admit that when he doesn't sleep at night I sometimes (not that often, occasionally, not really much, ok all the time) get frustrated. Not with him for keeping us awake, but because he's not enjoying the  peace that comes with sleep. When he doesn't want to eat and is picky, I'm upset not because he's not doing what I want, but because he's missing out on one of the best things life has to offer - eating.
Like, literally one of the top 3 things in life. Behind sleeping and one other thing.
As a parent of a young one I know I'll do anything to allow my son to feel the peace of a deep sleep or the joy of a face full of waffles or the excitement of seeing a balloon in the grocery store and shouting "Ba! Ba!". I want him to experience the best of life. I want him to feel happiness. I want him to feel content.
A feeling that says, I'm happy exactly where I am, with exactly what I have, and with exactly who I'm with.
That makes me think of my parents.
I wonder if they feel this soul-crushing joy regularly when they think of their four sons.
We have each grown up, married four of the best women on Earth, have successful jobs, serve in our churches and have authentic, deep, meaningful, life-changing relationships with God. Our lives are marked with purpose. Between us we have eight of the greatest children on Earth, and surely more to come. We are ambitious and hard-working, unique in our giftings and our personalities​.
We are, dare I speak on behalf of my brothers - content.
I'm not fully sure how we got here. I imagine it was like the aforementioned bomb-disarmament or nuclear core extraction. Every meticulous move well thought out and pre-practiced. Every decision pre-planned, all the pitfalls and what-not-to-dos well understood.
I like to imagine it that way because it's exciting and dramatic and sounds more like a Oceans 11 type of impossibly planned life than what it really was.
In reality, after my first year of parenting, I've come to understand one thing.
Parents are idiots.
We are. We know nothing. We make it up as we go. We do our best not to mess it up and we rarely succeed. Our mottos each day are less "Live life to the fullest and experience the wondrous joys of learning!" and more "Let's just keep them out of the hospital!"
In light of that, I wonder how I can raise my son to experience the joy and contentment I feel.
I look at my parents, my wife's parents, my in-law's parents, everybody's parents. I see hundreds of books written each contradicting each other. I look at my son and wonder what he'd prefer. I look at myself and wonder what I'm capable of.
Then I think on the Creator. 

The Bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it". Which sounds great - except, which way is that exactly? Does the Bible have an opinion on attachment parenting or eating non-GMO certified-organic or watching cartoons or getting vaccines?
Thankfully that same Bible says "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness" and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." 

That I can do.

I'm not the smartest parent, or the most creative. I don't really use Pintrest to come up with arts and crafts, or act as patiently as I should. But I can acknowledge God as the one who will raise my child, as the one who will make my paths straight and on whose understanding I will rely. It's less like disarming a bomb and more like pushing a boat off to sea not knowing how to sail. But I'm willing to do that. 

Because I live for that heart-expanding, soul-crushing feeling.

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