Sunday, April 6, 2008

Seasons of Parenting

Over the last few days, it's been a pretty busy place here at RolfeLand. On Thursday my sister-in-law arrived from Edmonton, and then on Friday we had a full house with 6 of the 7 kids, our grand-daughter, Kev's sister, and daughter #3's boyfriend, all here for movie night. Saturday was busy too since the weather finally (thank you Lord) allowed us to all get outside and begin the great big spring clean up. We even worked out there without coats, and that was the first time outdoors without coats since last fall. Today of course was the regular routine with getting everyone out the door on time and presentable, by 9:15 for Sunday school & church. This of course after the alarm didn't go off and we all slept in 45 minutes past the usual wake up time. That almost never goes well, but we did manage to make it on time today with only a few calls to "get moving" to the slower movers.

So much of my life is centered in being a mom. Just about everything I did this weekend, was either for the kids, with the kids, or in some way kid-connected. Just about everything I do from the time I get up (check to see who's up and figure out something for breakfast) until the last thing I do before I go to bed (gather discarded dishes, laundry, scraps of paper, pens, pencils, etc., and put them all in their place), has something to do with my kids. From the preparation of meals, to housework, to teaching, it's all kid-centered in one way or another, and it's been this way for over 25 years. Already, for over half my life I've been in mom-mode, and I'm 100% happy with that and wouldn't want it any other way.

The one thing that you're unprepared for when you become a parent however, is the depth of the love you have for your kids. You just have no idea how strong that love is until someone or something presents some kind of threat to them in some way. When that happens, you experience this rush of emotion/instinct that seems to send you into auto-pilot. I remember a few years ago when my son stepped barefoot into a smoldering bonfire, what I really wanted to do with cry along with him - but what I did instead was turn into SuperNurse and immersed his burning foot into a bucket of ice water while we waited for the paramedics to arrive. In the ambulance ride to the ER, while his foot was being treated I was getting a refresher course in medical terminology and a quick lesson in how they would treat the burn at the hospital. All the while I held his little hand and assured him that he would be okay, and silently prayed for the Lord to take the pain from him. For the next six weeks being SuperNurse and changing his dressings each day and treating his foot was #1 priority.

Sometimes though, there is no such ointment, no such pill, no amount of words that can take the pain away that our children experience. You cannot turn into SuperParent and make it go away, no matter how much you want to (and you want it more than you want to breathe). When my older girls lost their dad, there wasn't a thing I could "do" to ease their pain. I couldn't shield them from the sorrow or grief, they just had to go through it. One of the worst things I have ever seen as a mother, is their facial expressions the morning I had to tell each of them, that he was gone. The reality of those words and the immense pain they carried with them had to come from me, and it was the last thing I ever wanted to tell my own kids, but there was just no way around it.

Over the years I've had a few friends who have experienced heartbreaking situations with their own kids. These situations come in many varieties. Sometimes it's the kids themselves who break into sinful rebellion, get in trouble with the law, or simply lose all respect for their parents or siblings. Other times it might be an illness or accident, or the victim of a violent crime that leaves the child hanging onto life by a thread (or wrestling with emotions they simply can't handle), and leaves the parents in a raw and desperate state to see their child survive and be okay. The amount of love a parent invests in their child is so great, that when they are hurt, we genuinely feel it too. They may be a seperate indivual from us, but they are a part of us, and they carry our hearts with them, wherever they go. When the nurse in the maternity ward hands you that little pink or blue bundle, they don't tell you that part, it just comes with the package and you learn it later on, as they begin to grow up.

I thought a lot about this today, as I currently have two dear friends that are going through some of this in their own families. One is far more extreme than the other, but both have said almost the exact things, word for word, in expressing how it makes them (as the parent) feel. Some years ago when my second oldest was in her mid teens, she had a period of a couple of years where she went through an extremely rebellious time and it was a most painful thing to handle, and live with day to day. I remember saying the very same things to my pastor and husband, that my two friends have recently said to me. These are the difficult seasons of parenthood, and quite often we all feel so helpless - whether it's happening to us as a parent, or to someone else we care about.

In all of this, as a Christian, it is impossible not to see the spiritual implications. It's impossible to miss the rebellion, and how we often rebel against God like our children rebel against us. It's impossible to miss the consequences of sin in the world and how often that deeply affects others by way of "accidents" or becoming the victim of a violent crime. It's also impossible to not deal with the fact that our gracious and merciful and loving Heavenly Father allows these things to happen - and always for a reason. Even if it's a reason we will never come to fully understand in this lifetime. Some of those things, we will simply never understand, nor are we meant to.

It's also impossible to look at the parent/child relationship and not see the spiritual implication of Heavenly Father/child of God relationship in another area. In a healthy parent/child relationship, when a child is hurt - who do they turn to for comfort and assurance? They go to the parent, of course. They know the parent will do what is best for them, whether it's a band-aid or a reassuring hug, comforting word, good advice or whatever it is they need to help resolve the situation. They know out of all of the people in their life, the one person they can count on to say/do what is best for them is that devoted parent. It's the same exact way with a child of God. We know full well that whatever it is that is troubling us, whether illness or injury, a broken heart or a desperate struggle with some private issue, taking the matter to God in prayer is the one place we know we'll find comfort, wisdom, guidance, and grace. With tears in our eyes and desperation in our hearts, we run to Him just like the child runs to the parent - and for the exact same reason.

Sometimes, being a parent we get a crash course in re-learning how to be the child, as well. It's a hard season, it hurts a lot, but there is one place that we can always go for the comfort we need, the grace to get us through (and yes, we do get through it, amazingly enough), and the wisdom to know which path to take, no matter the situation.