I like sleep.
I like spending hours reading books, alone, in perfect quiet, in a pool of sunlight on a late fall afternoon.
I like a clean and tidy house. I like to eat food while it is still hot. I like clean clothes. I like to brush and style my hair in more than 2 minute increments. I like to concoct bowls of ice-cream delights liberally topped with chocolate sauce, strawberries, and powdered sugar that I do not like to share.
I like to use the restroom alone.
More significantly, however, I like to help, listen, visit, sit up with, comfort, grocery shop, cater to, clean, share and generally be there for someone else when it is convenient to me.
I didn’t realize these things about myself until I had kids.
The most gentle and simultaneously ruthless way to discover who you truly are is to have children. A cataclysmic shift of focus away from yourself and onto someone else takes place. It hurts at first.
It hurts at 7 am when the big kids wake up after you just laid down from being up with the baby most of the night. It hurts when a gift you treasure gets broken because your boys are leaping from counter tops and accidentally kick it crashing and smashing to the ground. It hurts when you can’t remember when last you had an uninterrupted conversation with a grown up, an outfit that someone didn’t wipe sticky hands across, or a night’s sleep that didn’t end with someone else’s bad dreams.
I feel all stretched out, softened and squidgy around the edges of my temperament.
I am learning to live in peace amidst the chaos of a house torn a muck by raucous boys. Laundry is rarely put away, but rather retrieved straight from the dryer. My favorite books bear the marks (often in purple or bright green sharpie) of my boys. Sunlight is not for catnapping in, but rather for tearing through the backyard en route to slaying dragons and rounding up the herd. Sleep is a dance between a baby’s needs and a mother’s dreams. Any food, treat, ice cream or drink is considered fair game by kids and nothing caters to my own convenience.
Everything is an educational experience.
Yes, even using the restroom.
But I have never been closer to a glimpse into the Father’s love for me than when I am lying in the pre-dawn dark between a six year old who now only admits in his sleep how much he still likes to snuggle and a baby girl who breathes so close to me you’d think we were the same person.
So I ache and stretch and succumb to the growing pains for them.
“By God’s marvelous design, few life experiences humble us quite as effectively as parenting. …This tiny tyrant is providentially placed in our house with one grand program: to mold his or her parents into the image of our Lord. The way up spiritually, is by looking down physically.”
~Gary Thomas, Devotions for Sacred Parenting, pp. 46, 48.
And looking back, it’s a marvel to see how far I’ve come. And a wonder to think what still lies ahead.