If you are a real life friend of mine on Facebook, you know that yesterday was a little rough.
At one point, all four of our children were crying – loudly – at the same time but for four different reasons. It was a cacophony of displeasure, all for my benefit.
Let me assure, those are the moments you don’t know are coming when you see the line change on the pregnancy test stick. I don’t think any parent, ever, thought, “I really want to have children because my life is incomplete without someone to make cry at the perceived injustice in the world.”
In fact, I’m going to guess almost all parents-to-be see a positive pregnancy test result and think, “Oh, crap! This is really real!” and then wallow in vaguely formed fancies involving baby smells, first steps, wedding days, and free-flowing, unfettered love and affection.
I can assure you when four children cry at the top of their lungs for four different reasons, your thought process is less about the miracle of life and more about wondering whether your head will explode.
(“In other news, a local woman was found dead today by her children after they screamed her to death… yes, Dan, it’s a sad story, one we don’t hear every day.”)
We survived yesterday’s emotional thunderstorm. Today I posted a photo of the girls getting ready to go to our first day of Classical Conversations for the year.
They look happy. (Quite possibly because they were happy.) And quite grown up. (Quite possibly because I haven’t been letting them drink coffee in order to stunt their growth.)
The guy I’m going to call my brother-in-law (even though he’s not really my brother-in-law) commented, “They seem happier than yesterday.”
“And that, my friend,” I wrote in reply, “is how you survive parenting. Each day mercies begin anew.”
Each day with these children is a miracle in the making.
Sometimes it’s a miracle that we made it out alive. When I think of the fragility of these bodies we inhabit, the sheer number of everyday accidents that could harm us, I thank God for the dodged bullet.
But by the mercy of God my child would be the story above the fold in the newspaper, my family would be the one in shock, aching in grief.
Sometimes it’s a miracle we are still moving at the end of the day. In the famous words of Dennis the Menace, “Why do you say, ‘Thank Goodness,’ bedtime instead of ‘Good Night’?!” The overwhelming chaos of child-rearing is lonely, and difficult.
But by the mercy of God I would be the one inflicting psychological damage as my short-tempered voice becomes the sound track these children hear in their heads for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes it’s a miracle to catch a glimpse of the sweetness of your child. Last night Lizard shaved his head. This morning Dos came to our bedroom when dawn was barely lighting the sky, she saw him asleep, stopped cold, and said (with a wave that encompassed her father’s appearance), “Well, oh! Daddy, well… Daddy looks pretty cute like that!” (She is right.)
But by the mercy of God I would miss the moments when a child’s perspective makes me laugh out loud and fills my heart with boundless joy!
Sometimes, with your miracle, you catch a glimpse of your child, see the curve of the cheek you’ve memorized changing from baby-sweet to adolescent hard, and realize the time you have when they ache to be like you is fleeting.
But by the mercy of God I would not be a woman I want my girls to emulate. I would be full of ugliness, and lose track of the moments that bring me to my knees as I admire the markings of the people of character they will become when the baby fat disappears and the hard angles of their faces become obvious.
This is how you survive parenting: Each day mercy abounds.
It’s not because the hard times disappear. It’s because you recognize the hard times aren’t permanent and sit with your hands open, accepting mercy.
Each day. Hands Open. Watching them grow, blessed to be a part of it, and whispering, “But by the mercy of God…”