I spent the last twenty-four hours babysitting four of my nine adorable grandchildren. My husband was with me, so I should say, “WE spent the last twenty-four hours…” This particular group of four are aged 9, 6, 3 and 1, and belong to two of our daughters. Over all, it was not at all a terrible experience, but I find myself needing to reflect upon it. Here goes.
It’s been a shock to me in these last few years to realize that parenting never ends. In fact, it has seemed to me to get harder. My children are great people, but it is a fallen world, and we’ve had our share of heart-break, trial, trauma, and stress. All this has tempted me to look back on the early years with great nostalgia, remembering fondly the days when I could kiss it and make it better, or give them a warm bath, dress them in p.j.’s, make popcorn, put on a movie, and be considered the purveyor of all comfort and fun. Those were the days when I could go to bed knowing they were all tucked safe in their beds, the days before night-time sirens sent me into serious prayer-mode.
I know those days were harder physically. I admit that I couldn’t do now what I did then. I don’t have the strength. However, the me who lived back then, while physically strong, could never have survived the emotional stress of these last years. I was filled with idealism and I believed I could shelter my kids from anything that threatened them. Life was going to be great.
Life is great. It’s just a bit different from what I imagined. I can’t fix everything. I can’t protect; I can’t control; I can’t arrange. For this, I have Jesus. I had Him then, too. I just didn’t know how much I needed Him. I was still trusting me.
What I learned over the last twenty-four hours, though, is that it isn’t just the physical strength I’m missing when it comes to dealing with young children. While I’ve learned to deal with the sirens, middle-of-the-night phone calls, bad news, a terrible economy, college in other states, deployment to war zones, betrayal and my children giving birth, I’ve forgotten how to be patient and understanding about the small things. I find it difficult to sympathize with tears over the fact that the pink cup is in the dishwasher or anger over the fact that it’s too cloudy to go to the pool. (I made both of those things up–they are merely fictitious examples, no actual grandchild is being mocked or belittled here.) On the other hand, I still go into a panic over possible fevers, unexplained crying, and babies sleeping longer than I thought they would, AND I STILL DON’T KNOW IF TEETHING REALLY CAUSES A FEVER!!!!!!!!
So, what, exactly, is my point? The point is that life always has its challenges. Every stage is different. We live, we learn, we grow, we change. We adapt to the stage where we are. We face the life we’re given with the grace God gives us, one day, one moment at a time. Living life in the shoes of my children for a few hours helps me to appreciate the grace God is currently giving them, and it makes me grateful for the grace He still lends to me. Life is always hard, and always sweet.
Earlier in the week I noticed a verse in Ecclesiastes and maybe that’s what started my thinking in this direction. It’s chapter seven, verse ten: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Amen!