9: The Joy of Parenting
Last night was one of those nights. One of the girls was sick and getting up every ten or fifteen minutes to go to the bathroom. After each trip to the bathroom she’d come back and roll on our floor moaning with a cramping stomach. (Our bedroom floor is the makeshift infirmary as well as refuge from all things that are scary.) We were both drifting in and out of sleep until around midnight when Kathleen got concerned and called the doctor. After being sick all day, we were concerned that our girl might be getting dehydrated. The doctor reassured us that there wasn’t much that could be done so Kathleen tried to treat some of the symptoms. She put a heating pad on her stomach, and gave her some pain killer as well. Do you remember what happened when you were a kid and your mom gave you medicine? Yeah. That happened. She threw it up along with what seemed to be several meals all over the bathroom floor. Unfortunately Kathleen was also in the way and got her feet nailed as well. I scrambled out of bed and started helping the cleanup process. I think we were back in bed around 2:00.
Actually, we’ve had some worse incidents where several kids were getting sick all at once. I remember one of those nights was the night before going in for a scheduled c-section. After an entire night of cleaning up after sick children we finally just gave up trying to sleep and just sat in bed and talked while we waited for morning to come.
Sometimes it’s not illness, but nightmares. There’s nothing like getting awaken by a blood-curdling scream and then trying to comfort a child who isn’t quite back into our space-time continuum yet.
And then there’s the nightly stuff: nursing, children falling out of bed, bathroom runs, dropped stuffed animals, and complaints of "I can’t sleep," "I’m thirsty," and "I’m scared." We’ve even had them wake us up ("us" meaning "Kathleen") just to say, "I love you."
Of course parenting is exhausting much of the time, but I mention nighttime because that can be when all our frustrations come to a culmination. It’s hard enough to survive the demands of the day, but can’t we at least get a reprieve? Is a night’s sleep too much to ask? Nighttime is also when we are really not in the mood to die to ourselves and serve others. We want to sleep, not clean up vomit.
Oftentimes parenting leaves no choice. When a child throws up, you have to clean it up whether you feel like it or not. (As if you’d ever feel like it, right?) It’s not like a job, where you can just leave and find a different place of employment. You can’t get a transfer to an easier position. You just do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. There is often little choice in that.
However, there is choice in this: you can choose how you respond. You can respond in anger, or with a grumbling heart, or you can respond cheerfully, out of a good heart.
In 1 Peter 5:2 pastors are called to be "eager to serve." It is not enough that we serve, that we do the job and complete the task, but we are to have a heart and passion for it. We should be "eager" to do it. Isn’t that true of all service? Who wants a grumbling employee, child, or even waitress? We’d much rather have service with a smile.
Certainly God wants us to serve Him through serving the children He has given us, but he also wants us to do it with a good heart about it—to embrace our cross so to speak. Although serving God is good, serving with a good heart is vastly superior. He asks us to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7) and cheerful mercy givers (Romans 12:8). He tells us not to complain (Philippians 2:14), to offer hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9) , and to serve wholeheartedly (Ephesians 6:7). Certainly if He wants this kind of cheerful service in the Christian life, He also wants this kind of service in our parenting. That’s not too much of a stretch is it?
Perhaps the key is remembering that it is Christ we are serving. After all, if He were staying at my house I wouldn’t get mad if He woke me up; and if He got sick, I’d be honored to clean up after Him. It would be a privilege. So if the child that He has entrusted to my care needs the same level of sacrifice from me should I respond any differently? Shouldn’t it still be an honor to serve God’s child?
Don’t let parenting be a burdensome drudgery. Find joy in your parenting. Be eager to serve, and choose to respond according to God’s power, and not your own "sleepy" flesh.
Matthew 10:42 [Jesus said,] "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." NIV