A Year of Morning Thanks
Years ago, when our kids were just a bundle of energy, a woman told me how taking her firstborn off to college and leaving him there was, to her, immensely painful. "It was like giving birth all over again," she told me, biting a lip. She was in a writing class I was teaching, and I thought the analogy, a simile, was really fine, especially memorable. It stuck.
A few days later, I was visiting a couple on a Dutch Reformed ecclesiastical assignment called "house visiting." That couple had just watched their last walk out the door and move away; they'd become empty-nesters. Trying to be thoughtful and gracious--even elderly--about it, I told them how the woman in my writing class had explained her second painful round of birth pangs.
The woman looked at me as if I were speaking Latin. "Wow," she said, "when our daughter left, I couldn't have been happier."
I remember those stories now because an ex-student of mine, who's blessed with two toddlers, asked me yesterday whether having kids ever, ever gets easier. My initial answer probably gave him little comfort. "Some say," I told him, "'little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.'" Endless toddler dependence does, in fact, end, I told him too.
Then he told me about friends of theirs who have eleventy-seven kids and others who adopt wholesale--perfect parents. Immediately, I smelled guilt, the horrific feeling that when I'm not lovin' every last minute of my kids' existence, I'm morphed into bad dad, this whole parenting thing a disaster simply waiting to happen. "After all, just look at so-and-so. . ."
So I told him those old stories and explained that when the empty-nester mom told me she was thrilled to see the last one go, I felt somehow freed--not because I didn't love my little kids, but because I remembered a simple fact: we're all different--thank the Lord.
Don't know if that story will help him, but I hope so. Those blessed kids take so much energy when they're toddlers, God bless 'em, that when your frustration feels like it vastly exceeds Ozzie and Harriet down the block, you think you're some kind of inept loser, your kids victims of bad divine choice-making--they should have been assigned to some Walt Disney dad across town.
We're all not the same. Thank goodness we're different. That's my thanks this a.m.
Hope my story does some good. Did me, years ago.