Being a parent is both the greatest blessing and the greatest challenge I’ve ever received. I don’t say that because Marlee is a challenging or even difficult child. In fact, I’m convinced the opposite is true. She is delightful. She is outgoing, she is funny, she is kind and compassionate, she is strong-willed. . . there are so many other ways to describe the little person that is my Marlee-girl.
It is the nature of parenthood that makes it a blessing and a challenge. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Marlee, I felt both blessed and challenged. How amazing that I got to carry a growing child in my body? How amazing that I got to witness life given to a sweet baby girl through what I’m sure is one of the greatest miracles the human body is capable of? How amazing that I get to be a part of the life of this child and see her first steps, hear her first words, and see so many other milestones that have yet to come? And the challenges. . . no one told me that you have to actually learn how to breastfeed and that it takes time and patience and is hard! How do you navigate a temper tantrum without simply responding with a tantrum of your own? How do you confront those who have wronged your child while showing grace? How do you respond in crisis when your two year old has to get staples in the back of her head (that actually happened to us, haha)?
There are times when those feelings of blessed while challenged wane because we’ve settled into a routine and things are comfortable. But as I write this, I feel the intensity of those feelings. While my temptation is to feel more challenged than blessed, I’m fighting with all that I have to remember how blessed I truly am. It is challenging to make all the necessary sacrifices that come with being a parent. It is challenging to make the hard decisions that come with being a parent, even when it is the right decision. It is challenging to walk through the triumphs and trials that your children experience. (And let me just say that I’m three years into parenthood – so I really have no clue what’s in store for me ahead. I’m sure these challenges will seem like a cake walk in a few years.)
But it is also a blessing.
It is a blessing to have a heart that is capable of loving someone else so much that the sacrifices are, for the most part, easily justified by how much you care about the one you are sacrificing for. Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I didn’t want kids. Part of it was my own selfish reasons, part of it was fear of not being able to care enough, and part of it was just immaturity. The moment I heard Marlee cry for the first time, my heart instantly grew. I became capable of loving so deeply and so fiercely that at times, it takes me by surprise.
It is a blessing to make the hard decisions that come with being a parent because not only do I learn from it, but so does Marlee. I learn to wrestle with what defines right and wrong. I learn to submit to the opinions of other, wiser people in my life. I learn more about what healthy, adult confrontation looks like. I learn that being a parent isn’t always fun and it isn’t always easy. One thing that this stage of Marlee’s life has convinced me of is that she learns by watching other people in her life, especially her dad and me. “Uh oh, what happened?” she says. As soon as those words are uttered from her lips, I know where she learned them from. When her voice gets high pitched as she greets our dog with, “Hi Winston!” and some mumbles we can’t quite make out, I know where she learned that from, too. It is a blessing to show her that I am not perfect and that I struggle. It is a blessing to be able to teach her at a young age that life is full of easy decisions and it is full of difficult ones, too.
It is a blessing to walk through the triumphs and trials that she experiences. It was so exciting to witness her first steps on Christmas morning! It has been fun potty training her and seeing her excitement over her successes. It is endearing to see how much she loves, not just our dog, but any dog she sees. It was a blessing to be at the hospital with her that night she had to get three staples in her head and witness how strong she is. It was a blessing to sleep on the floor of her room the first time she got the stomach bug. It is a blessing to be there to lift her spirits when she has accidents and doesn’t make it to the potty in time. It is a blessing to get to stay at home with her when she is sick and not feeling well. And even though it is so hard, it is a blessing to know that come Monday when she starts at a new daycare and leaves her friends behind, I will be there.
A few years ago, the words of Psalm 139 spoke to me and helped me internalize the truth that God sees me and has always seen me. I have been drawn back to this same passage of scripture today because I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that just as God sees me, He also sees Marlee. I also believe that as challenging as Monday will be, He will be there for us, both, to comfort us, to strengthen us, to remind me that He sees us, and to bless us in ways we can’t even imagine.
“Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.” Psalm 139: 1-6