Let me say this first – I fiercely love my boys. Ethan (5) and Andy (almost 2) are gifts from God that my wife and I don’t deserve. We wouldn’t trade our relationship with them for anything. But somewhere along the way we’ve discovered this simple reality – being a parent is hard work. There are countless reasons why, but here are a few that have been especially true for me:
It requires an incredible amount of energy – I love to sleep in, take afternoon naps, and sit down in a comfortable chair and read. But right now my life looks very different – early mornings, running around, cleaning the house, working hard, wrestling in the living room, washing dishes, taking care of the house, flying kites, building Legos, giving baths, and more (keeping up with a high energy five year old and a curious and quick toddler). By the time kids are in bed, I’m zonked. Parenting takes an incredible amount of energy, energy that I often don’t have.
It calls you into a life of service - When Kaitie and I were preparing to get married, we heard a similar thought from a number of different people – marriage will show you just how selfish you are. How true that turned out to be. But as our marriage grew and kids entered into the picture, we discovered something that no one around us warned us about – having children will REALLY show you how selfish you are. Kaitie and I realized that we were good at serving one another at convenient times (and at inconvenient times it could simply wait). But having children is a call to serve at all times (which is mostly inconvenient times). I discovered how much of parenting is giving and serving, and how little I naturally do either.
It reveals what’s really inside you – Parenting reveals what you’re made of, and for me, this has been a hard reality to face. I’m a really good guy when life is easy and little is demanded of me. But when I’m pulled and stretched and challenged – I get a clearer picture of who I am. Anger, selfishness, bitterness, pride, impatience - through the journey of marriage and into parenting, I’ve seen with greater clarity how deep these run inside me. My kids don’t create these struggles in me, they simply draw out what is already there. And so my harsh words and temper tantrums, my withdrawing and complaining all reveal that I’m not who I need to be or want to be, and I am more desperate for God’s grace than I first thought.
I could write a million blog posts highlighting the simple pleasures of being a parent, but I talk about these particular difficulties because they have been gifts in disguise. They are teaching me a powerful lesson - God is an amazing parent.
As I struggle and fail as a parent, I’m more amazed and thankful of how much better of a Father God is than I am. As I see my weaknesses and mistakes, I am also seeing God’s perfections more clearly – and it has been so good for my soul. He is amazingly patient, perfectly kind, and completely forgiving. He never gives up, never loses his cool, and is always there for me. He endures my complaining, perseveres through my temper tantrums, and is at work making me into the man he wants me to be.
Parenting is hard work, but I’m growing to be thankful for that reality. God is using it to shape and mold me to be more like his Son, the perfect servant, and I am better able to experience the deep love of my Father, who personally knows how hard it really is to be a good parent.