Early on in my parenting experience, I determined to enjoy every stage of the process. That was after I discovered the joys of unraveling the mysteries of lactation with a newborn and operating on four hours of sleep. People often told us, “Enjoy your children while they are young.” That made sense to me, but it made me realize that I should enjoy them at every stage.
I was blessed with the opportunity to work from home and, as a homeschooling family, we saw a lot of each other. I never felt as though I lost touch with my daughters. I knew their joys and frustrations, their friends and their friends’ families.
We have navigated many transitions. Parenting—as far as I have experienced it—presents new phases all the time. About the time I become comfortable with the routine, something changes. We had a pretty good routine in place with our first daughter when our second daughter came along. Suddenly, our attention was divided—no surprise there. And we had to help the elder daughter learn to cope with the change.
For the most part, she adjusted well. Some stories, however, became clear long after the originating event. More than once my wife and I punished our younger daughter for drawing on the walls. Years later, we found out that our older daughter had been the artist and blamed the younger—who was unable to articulate her innocence. I console myself knowing that the punishments were not too severe. By the way, I do not recall any punishment for the older sister when the truth came out. All four of us just laughed about it!
Then there was the transition into the preteen phase. Suddenly, our sweet daughter had an attitude of defiance and indifference. Choosing a restaurant became such a divisive experience that we told her that she had no vote or input in the matter. She was not going to eat anything from the menu anyway, not when the restaurant provided perfectly good packs of crackers. When the younger daughter reached that precious phase, we knew that we would survive; we could even find some humor in it, if we treaded lightly.
Now our daughters are sixteen and eighteen years old—one is in college and one is in high school—and I am aware that my role is changing from leader to advisor. While driving my college student back to campus yesterday, we had time to dig into the deeper issues of life. We had two hours to be still and listen and think. We talked about the mundane—classes and grades—as well as our purpose in life. We considered the futility of merely earning lots of money, the corruption that comes to both capitalism and government, and the joy of coming fully alive.
Ah yes, being fully alive. Only God can give us that life, when we tap into the image of God in our souls, taking risks and creating. God is more interested in what we become than in what we accomplish. Many people achieve noteworthy goals, while their souls drift into selfishness. God wants us to lose our lives in Him and then experience His life in us. His life brings us adventure, pain, joy, relationships, and even accomplishment.
Driving along US Highway 421 we pondered God’s perspective on His creatures. What does He value most? The big, flashy ministry successes or the quiet lives with deep, long lasting spiritual impact? We wonder what is in the heart of God.
I still want to enjoy every moment of parenting; I think it is getting better all the time.