Stephanie Sanders contemplates the sacrificial nature of the vocation of parents.
From a logical standpoint, having kids doesn’t make much sense.
For starters they are crazy expensive, not just financially but physically and emotionally. Your whole life goes from being free to do as you please to being tied to feeding schedules and sleep schedules. Babies swing from too hot to too cold, and you can never leave the house without hauling a huge bag ever again. You quickly learn that tying another person’s shoes or zipping up another person’s coat for them isn’t as easy as it looks. You transition as they age from hearing, “No, I do it!” to “Why? Why? Why?” to “Don’t tell me what to do.”
So, why have kids at all? It isn’t logical.
Saturday night Mercy had a horrible time sleeping. I’m not sure if she’s grown and so her reflux medication dosage needs to be increased, but she woke three times in as many hours with milk coming out her nose. Imagine waking to that choking vomit sensation in the dark. Her longest sleep stretch was an hour and a half that night. I gave up on sleeping myself at 3:15 am to wear her in a sling so she could sleep upright and her stomach could settle down.
By 6:30 am Sunday I had reached that stage of tired incoherence where you have difficulty stringing two words together. Josh was up and ready for the day, so we traded places to care for Mercy and hold her when she needed to nap. After another hour and a half of sleep I got up to get ready for church. A pair of black stretchy pants, lots of hairspray, and two shots of espresso later, I prayed people at church would be looking at the cute baby and not the bags under my eyes. I survived church half-awake walking with Mercy at the back. She didn’t cry, just fussed a little which was a nice change.
But then a miracle happened.
On the way home from church, hot and exhausted, I had just finished saying something to Josh, who was driving, and looked back down at Mercy. And it happened.
Mercy looked at me and gave me an exaggerated, deliberate blink.
When I laughed, she laughed, with her tiny pink-lipped mouth open wide, delighted in herself and my delight with her. So, I slowly gave her an exaggerated blink back. And then she blinked at me twice and giggled again. For five whole minutes back and forth we went, my whole world the delighted chortles of a baby.
It’s easy for our focus to be on the negative things of life, the hard things: my exhaustion, the kids' schooling situation in transition due to the pandemic, the pandemic itself and all the crazy-making issues surrounding it, justice and injustice issues, I could go on. We can’t ignore reality, but our focus can’t be so narrow as to just see the negative. While I can’t ignore the stress of needing to plan for educating my five school-aged kids at home while sleep deprived and caring for a high needs baby, that can’t be all I see.
Being a parent is about learning to lay your life down for others, putting their needs first, the humble care of changing diapers and feeding someone who can’t feed themselves. Parenting is learning how to teach people to love while you are learning yourself. Parenting is learning that if you wait to be patient and loving until you are well rested, it could be years. You learn being tired is no excuse to be short with your spouse and kids.
The sacrificial, other-centered life isn’t logical by most standards. Moms give up narrow hips for pain, sleep deprivation, and stretch marks. Why make the trade? Maybe our focus is narrow, zeroed in on the negative.
There is a whole world out there of crepe myrtle trees in riotous pink bloom with orange cardinals hopping from branch to branch right outside my front window. There are green vein-tipped leaves getting nutrients from hidden places twenty feet underground. There are sunsets in colors that God created just to delight my eyes.
And there are babies learning to blink.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Copyright 2020 Stephanie Sanders
Image: Laura Garcia (2019), Pexels
About the author: Stephanie is a survivor of motherhood, adopting teens from foster care, and breast cancer treatment with little kids. Whether it’s deep or funny, she enjoys writing, teaching, and speaking about falling in love with God in the midst of real life. Stephanie is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, Word Weavers International, and lives in South Carolina with her husband and eight children. Find her on Facebook: StephanieLSanders, or Twitter: @stephLsanders
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