My son is just over 2 years old. Becoming a mother has been a beautiful, difficult, exhilarating, exhausting, hilarious, and joyful experience.
Whenever someone would ask, “Do you like being a mom?” I would answer, ” I love being E’s mom.”
And how could I not love being this little person’s mom? He makes me laugh, out loud, multiple times a day, with the hilarious things he comes up with. He always insists on helping whenever I pull out my recipe box, or the broom, or need to run downstairs to put on a load of laundry. He is fiercely attached to his dad and to me, and gives the best hugs and sloppy kisses, pulling back with a huge, “Mwah!” He loves reading books in our “reading nest” made of blankets and pillows which I still haven’t gotten around to putting away after Grandma and Grandpa’s last visit. It rarely takes him more than one time hearing a new phrase or a new idea before it starts cropping up in the most unlikely places, showing me his little mind is working overtime to make incredible connections between all the people and things in his ever-expanding world.
And yet, there are incredibly challenging sides to his strong personality. He insists, vociferously, to do so many things “BY MYSELF!” and often gets upset before we’ve had a chance to explain that yes, we’d like to help him do it by himself. He is so interested in every new thing that his attention span rarely lasts longer than 10 seconds, which requires constant creativity and interaction from a dedicated adult – there is NO multi-tasking when I’m home with my little guy. If we do anything once, it becomes a tradition (like the one time I had to pick up some groceries on the way home from daycare and he was so hungry I grabbed him a cheese bun from the bakery and paid for it after he’d devoured it happily, walking around the store still wearing his bike helmet, and now every time we go to the store he says, “I get bun? I excited!!!” and jumps up and down). Some mornings, we’ve played lego, played play dough, read books, gone downstairs to play with trains, baked banana bread, walked to the library, gotten a coffee and treat at the corner cafe… all before 11am. And, because he is all movement and chatter and noise and play and imagination, and I am an introvert… I go to bed early nearly every night, simply to enjoy the stillness and quiet of my bedroom.
My in-laws got a taste of this exhilarating and exhausting child just last week when they visited. We went for a walk around the block to walk off our turkey dinner before dessert, and my father-in-law put his arm around me, gave me a big squeeze, and said, “God has given you the biggest gift to steward!”
As my little man’s personality has revealed itself more and more, the burden and gift of parenthood has also become ever more apparent to me. And most days, it terrifies me. How do I steward this little person well? How do I raise this little man to become tender, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, resilient, persistent, and kind? How can I help him discover his gifts? How can I nurture his innate interest in every little detail of the world? How can I help him find creative, healthy, and joyful outlets for his seemingly limitless energy?
The task of parenthood seems monumental. And it definitely requires guts, a willingness to get dirty, and infinite vats of patience.
This burden of parenting my child has already required so much of me – life and breath and blood and bone, soul and faith and passion and perseverance. As much as I have proclaimed, to myself and my husband and any friends who will listen: “Women should be empowered and enabled to balance family and career!” I have yet to find that delicate and seemingly impossible balance in my own life. I am constantly questioning whether I should be doing “more” with my life, my education, my career.
But this gift of parenting my child has already blessed me far beyond what I could have imagined before little E was born. I have watched my husband turn into a caring, devoted, patient, joyful father. The joy of discovering my little man’s personality has been unbounded, so much so that I can honestly say he is one of my favourite people to be with in the whole wide world. My heart simply wants to burst out of my chest when I slip into his room at night to check on him, and I see him sprawled in his crib, clutching his teddy bear and sleeping so peacefully.
Neither the fact that parenthood is a burden nor the reality that it is a great gift diminish the other in any way. Too many people have commented, “But it’s worth it!” when I express my exhaustion or sense of inadequacy at parenting my child. Yes, parenting my child is “worth” all the frustration and self-doubt and tiredness. But it’s not valuable in spite of all those challenges, it is valuable at one and the same time.
Blessed burden and achingly precious gift.
The more we can encourage each other as parents to hold both the beauty and the burden equally, tenderly, and respectfully, the more we realize that perhaps this tension is the essence of parenthood.
We have to cherish, nurture, and protect our children while at the very same time letting them out into the wide world to fall down, be hurt, and fail. We have to teach our children to be kind and considerate to all creatures and human beings, while at the same time comforting them when not all creatures and human beings are reciprocally kind and considerate to them. We want them to be secure in our love for them, while at the same time encouraging their independence and self-reliance.
Parenting is a constant practice of holding on tight and letting go, all at the same time.
This is an eternal struggle for a perfectionist like me. But I am learning, day by day, to welcome my child and the day we share with open hands. I wake up and prepare myself to shoulder whatever burden I may need to carry, while at the same time preparing myself to receive whatever joy and blessing the day will bring.