Parenting: messy, chaotic, beautiful
Like many people, I recently read this incredibly popular article from Momastery. I love her description of kairos moments – those are the times that ring joyously in every parent’s heart.
But, I think the “sweet old ladies” are also right. I need to treasure every minute as a parent – even those that are painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. Because every moment is worth living, remembering, experiencing. Because treasuring every moment will give me the perspective I’ll need to watch my children grow up with few regrets.
My first pregnancy was difficult. I couldn’t sleep at all, I hurt all the time, and I was teaching 20 hours of undergraduate courses (plus prep and grading) on top of a full-time PhD. But I seized every moment of that pregnancy, because I had thought I would never have any children. When my daughter was born, I lived every moment of her not-sleeping-more-than-fifteen-minutes-at-a-time. Because she was the child I had feared I would never have. I understood the gift I had been given.
Then it was easy to get pregnant with my second child, and I got a little lost. Both kids were waking several times every night, and I was exhausted. The days felt long. I found myself watching the clock. My husband had started to travel for work, and I hadn’t figured out how to make that work.
Then, one day, a memory came to mind. I was a teenager, looking after my baby sister while my mom attended an evening work function. My dad was out of town, and she was taking his place. My baby sister was very attached to my mother. She hadn’t been left this long at night before, and she was probably teething. She wouldn’t drink her bottle, and she was starving. She wouldn’t fall asleep. For five hours, she cried. I cried. We were both exhausted by the time my mom got home.
I realized that I treasure that memory – with all its pain, frustration, and anguish. It was a hard night, but I loved that baby. And, even though I couldn’t solve her problems, she knew I loved her. She loved me.
That is when I decided to live it all – the beauty, the fun, the joy, the silliness, the dirt, the frustration, the exhaustion, the embarrassment. I decided to focus on my relationship with my kids when they acted up in public, instead of worrying what anyone else thought. They stopped acting up as much. I decided to make sure every day had time to live – without running around or checking off to-do lists. I stopped watching the clock. I learned that living the difficult moments instead of numbly waiting for them to end would allow me to make the most of these early years.
Last summer I sat with that same sister, both of us in tears again. Crying again because she hurt, because it wasn’t fair, because I couldn’t solve her problems. Problems that aren’t going away. And I caught a glimpse of just how precious these early years are, when children’s needs are simple. When they cry one moment and laugh the next. When – if we watch – kairos moments happen all day long. No wonder we are told to treasure every minute.