I’m waiting for my second bundle of boy to arrive. He’ll be birthed within a few months, and I have no idea what he’ll be like – his looks, his personality, his interests. It wasn’t that long ago when I found myself in this same position with my first boy.
I had no idea what to expect with Bronson, but after a year and a half with him, I’ve learned so much – not about parenting per se, but about life. Life like a child.
Lesson #1: Dependence is beautiful.
As a adamantly independent person, I’ve often been convicted of my need for others, but I’ve never been bopped over the head with its beauty like I was with a newborn babe in hand. It’s humbling to be needed so radically, so fully.
For a baby, there’s no apologies about dependence, no shame in not being more capable. In fact, the dependence is celebrated. They expect to be taken care of, and they are. They trust fully without hesitation. They rest peacefully without worry. All because they recognize, quite instinctively, that they’re not in charge of themselves.
Even as Bronson has grown, I still see this dependence, albeit less frequently. Nonetheless, there’s still precious glimpses of our innate needs – for affection, for comfort, for provision, for rest, for reassurance. He asks for all these things, and I revel in the beauty of being able to respond.
Lesson #2: Pain is part of the process.
The first year of life surges by at warp speed. No one can argue this. There’s an enormous amount of learning and growth that should occur, and parents rarely get enough sleep to keep up.
For me, one of the most difficult parts of becoming a parent was seeing the suffering of my son. In sickness, in shots, in sadness – my heart is tender to his hurt.
But from the perspective as parent, I see the purpose of pain. I see that a shot today prevents further pain later. I see that falling down is part of learning to stand. I see that being upset about a thrown toy taken away is part of character building.
And as I see my son, I see the proper response to pain. I see the ability to express it – immediately, emphatically. I envy his honesty. Pain is pain. Babies and toddlers don’t pretend otherwise. But pain is in the present, and my son leaves it there. He moves forward quickly – learning from the pain, but not dwelling on it. He’s persistent, and he grows enormously because of it.
Lesson #3: We’re part of a community.
It’s not just the abundance of casseroles at birth that reminded me of my place in a larger community. In fact, mothering young children is often isolating, boring and lonely. But the cry of a child is a cry of relationship. He’s constantly reminding me of my need to join in.
I need to know him, which means I need to pay attention, to pursue him, to cultivate him. He clings to me and Ryan when he’s scared, sad and tired. He clings, and it’s praise to us – a declaration of his belief in our goodness.
As he’s grown into a toddler, he daily reminds me of the importance of communication. He still uses very few words, but he tells tales with air-traffic-controller quality. Because he wants me to know him. He wants me to understand.
This knowing and communicating is about him joining and clinging to our family. We’re our own little community, and he’s an active participant in it.
Lesson #4: Obedience is tough work.
My son follows my example, more than my words. He’s a mirror of me, and that makes obedience tough, humbling work. For me.
I’m not just concerned with his actions. I worry about his attitude – his quick temper, his adamant running away from my correction. I set boundaries. He doesn’t have free reign not because I’m controlling but because I’m loving.
I’m consistent. He’s resistant.
But we just keep going, trudging the path of obedience.
Lesson #5: Stagnation isn’t an option.
Most days I wish life was easy, predictable, sure. I want to know what I should do and just do it. I want to feel as if I’ve arrived. Permanently.
But I have a toddler who snaps me back to reality. One day he loves yogurt, the next he won’t eat it. One week he loves one book and one book only, the next he tosses it aside in disgust. Bewilderment is a constant in parenting. Each day, I awake to the notion that I cannot fathom what that day will hold.
But as I embrace this, the gains are great. My little boy is curious about every person we see, about the lady bug on the floor, about the way I prepare our food, about the earing in my ear. If I’m open to his derailment, life is an adventure. He’s aware. He’s learning. He’s living with eyes wide open.
He’s changing every day, growing more fully into himself as he moves forward. He steps into each new thing with grace, grit and glee. As we both enter each new phase and stage, I realize the going is the point.
It’s forward movement – not arrival – that’s the growth.
As I’ve learned from my son, I’ve grown in my awareness of God. I realize now how much I cannot fathom his love, his fierce passion and devotion to my well-being. There is this well inside of me, this unquenchable well of love for my son. And I’m fully human.
When God calls me to things, he calls me like a parent to a child. He yearns for me to acknowledge my dependence, for me to cling peacefully in his arms, for me to commune with him, for me to mimic his behavior and for me to just keep moving forward.
He loves me even more than I love my son.