Posts

A different view of parenthood

Did you hear?

So much for doing away with helicopter parenting. Apparently, hyper-involved parenting works. They’re saying it leads to higher test scores.

Oof.

I took my daughter to our first daddy-daughter dance recently. Before I did, I remember the comments when I told people it was coming. “How special!” “Once in a lifetime opportunity!” “You never get these moments back!” It felt like a lot of pressure for a dad rolling in from a long, long week.

Oof.

And Christian parenting even ups the ante. We don’t just want our kids to grow up and be successful (whatever that means). We want them to serve people with their lives. We don’t just want to love and connect deeply to our kids along the way. We want them to believe in the grace of our Lord Jesus. That’s A LOT!

Oof.

What do I do with that? Punch back with my daddy manifesto. What does that look like?

I will remember: She’s not mine. She hasn’t been ever since Christ claimed her in her baptism. Therefore, I no longer shoulder final responsibility for her. What I will do is be her dad. I will teach her, cuddle her, discipline her, protect her, love her. I will work on her sight words with her. (I’ll obviously have to update this list as life progresses.) I will take her to gymnastics. I will teach her how to work through her emotions, what it looks like for a man to love a woman (her mom), and to understand the commandments. I will work to crystallize in her an identity as God’s child. I will be her dad. I will refuse, however, to be more than that.

I will not take up a God-sized burden I’ve never been asked to carry. I will not expect myself to be there for her everywhere. I will not expect myself to protect her always. That’s too big for me! I will content myself to be her father—not her Father!—which is all my circumscribed, located, finite self can do. I will empower that contentment by remembering who her Father is. He is her Creator and Redeemer who will shape her far better than I can; love her more than I ever will; and protect her everywhere and at all times with so much grace and power that, finally, he will resurrect her.

I actually think that last part is incredibly life-giving even now. I refuse to believe that my moments with my daughter are here today and gone tomorrow. I’m not going to let the heavy tonnage of that thought rest on me. I have every confidence that through Jesus my moments with her will never end. Try thinking about that the next time you’re watching your daughter doing “the floss” at the daddy/daughter dance. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. There I was, this dad weirdly proud that his daughter knows how to do stuff like that and simultaneously divinely happy thinking, My Father has made me a true father to that princess—well—forever. I’d call it a once-in-a- lifetime moment, but I don’t think I should. I have moments like that too often.

Jonathan Bourman and his wife, Melanie, have a six-year-old daughter.

To a new parent

Welcome to the adventure, friend! Parenting is hard and messy, and you’ll never be so tired in your life as you are with a newborn. But it is so worth it. I’d like to share my biggest takeaways from what I’ve experienced with my kids so far (ages six and nine), in hopes that they give you something to look forward to during your sleepless nights.

You will sleep again.

There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture! I remember thinking after my daughter was born that I would be tired for the rest of my life. While my days of sleeping past 9 a.m. on Saturday are long gone, most nights pass peacefully. So power through that fatigue; it does get better.

There’s no such thing as a weak-willed toddler.

Have you ever tried to stuff an angry octopus into a pillowcase? Me neither. But I have a great idea of what it might be like after having to buckle angry toddlers into their car seats mid-meltdown. It’s hard when you’ve gone from having this baby who is dependent on you for everything to this little human with opinions of his own. And if those opinions don’t match yours, it’s frustrating that he can’t communicate with you about why. Patience and more patience will get you through.

This, too, shall pass.

It’s all a series of stages. Tantrums, sleepless nights, leaving church without actually hearing a word of the sermon due to a squirmy, active kiddo—none of these are forever. If you are stuck in the “random nudist in awkward places” stage of toddlerhood and just cannot keep pants on your child—don’t sweat it! All parents have been through this, and it does end eventually. (Probably.)

You and your kiddos were paired by God, and you are exactly the person they need.

God chose us to snuggle, feed, burp, console, teach, and love these specific little humans. He knew they needed us, and we needed them. I hold on to this when stages are particularly difficult (hello, impending teenage-hood!). I am, without a doubt, the right person for this job. Even if I don’t always feel like it. Even if sometimes I want to run screaming into the woods and embrace life as a hermit. I am meant to be their mom, and they are meant to be my kids. Trust in this when you find yourself questioning your parenting abilities. God knew what he was doing when he put you together. He loves you and your kiddos.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children—nine-year-old Anna and six-year-old Henry.

The years are short, but the days are long

The years are short but the days are long.

Even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mommy. When that day finally came, I was over the moon. We brought our precious baby boy home, and he started to cry and cry and cry. An overbearing relative told me that the baby could feel my nervousness. We had just moved, and since this was 1978, there was no Internet, and long distance calls to friends and family were expensive. I felt so alone and bewildered that this experience was not the Hallmark moment I had envisioned. The days were long. How foolish of me not to quickly turn to the living, breathing help available at my new church. Eventually I sought the counsel of wonderful Christian mothers who had dealt with colic and ear infections.

But I quickly fell head first into the quagmire of parental self-doubt when I met my very first “Supermom.” Her house was always tidy, her children immaculate. They sang hymns in four-part harmony at bedtime. And so I agonized over inviting other moms into our modest and quite often messy home. This was brought home to me rather forcibly after an attempted burglary on our house. The burglars had gotten into our basement but had not gained access to the first floor. A police officer who joined the investigation as it was ending looked around that unburgaled first floor with a horrified expression and said, “Look what they did to your house!” My own mother gently reminded me that nobody does everything. Something usually gives. And the days were very long.

God granted me a wonderful friend who truly loved all children and welcomed them into her totally child-centric home. You can imagine the wonderful jumble of planned activities and the spaces for unplanned creative play. She was totally engaged with the children who entered. My children never wanted to leave her house. And so I felt guilty that I didn’t let my children paint in the living room or drop playdough on the carpet. Guilt vied with yearning as I snuck furtive looks at the clock to see if it was bedtime for kiddies. I was sure that her days were as long as mine, but she was enjoying hers more.

My husband and I thought it was important that we invite children and adults who were not invited elsewhere to our home. As I was explaining this yet again before an Easter dinner, one of my children asked rather wistfully, “Are we ever gonna have just our family for holidays?” I felt I had somehow fallen short in the mommy role. The days were long, and some dinners were extremely long.

And suddenly they were grown, with children of their own. We watch in humble gratefulness as we see our children as loving and already wise Christian parents who continually seek to improve. We admire their willingness to learn from others and marvel at how many seek their counsel. We applaud their prioritization of Christian values in the face of popular parenting myths. We support their efforts to spread the Word to the uninformed or excluded through their love for the marginalized and disenfranchised. We meet the diverse friends they have gathered as family and embrace them as our own. We praise the Lord for his people and his Word in this yet unfinished parenting journey.

The days were long but the years are short.

Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.