The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Parenting…
It would be easy to get the impression from social media that having a baby is all beauty and no burden. A highlight reel of nothing but cute photos, tiny clothes and precious memories. Don’t be fooled. Having a baby is hard work. The reason you don’t see the puke, the poo and the unbrushed teeth is because no one wants to see that. I make no apology for focusing on the good bits in what I post – that’s my way of celebrating the blessings. It doesn’t ignore or belittle the challenges to emphasise the things I’m thankful for.
We live in the world of social media, and that means we all have to be both savvy and discerning. Savvy in knowing how best to curate our own digital presence, keeping it authentic without over-sharing. Discerning to realise that behind the smiles of other’s people’s feeds lie their sorrows. For some people what they put up is a facade, for others it’s a faith statement, but remember that you never see the fully story. That’s ok, but don’t fall into the trap of comparing your worst reality with someone else’s perfect image. Real life is more nuanced than that.
Parenting has its good and bad bits, just like every other stage of life. In fact, with the all-night screaming, non-stop sicking and all-too-often shouting the bad can get downright ugly. So ugly in fact that you feel like a failure, like you’re somehow the only parent who’s ever lost their rag with their child, or who’s had a meltdown from weeks on end of their world shrinking to the whims of a pint-sized tyrant. This post is designed to celebrate it all. It’s all a valid part of life, part of the learning curve, and part of the richness of the experience. The good warms the heart, the bad teaches us how to be better, and the ugly forces us to rely on God when our own resources ran out a week last Thursday.
I joke with my Dad about babies’ survival instincts – their uncanny ability to break out the smile just when they’ve sensed they pushed you to your breaking point. Luke’s done that to me several times now, just like Ethan did, and just like I doubtless did to my parents. Luke and Ethan’s kids will do it to them. We don’t pay back, we pay it forward. But I reflect on how those moments of utter, unblemished joy, like dazzling rays of sunshine through cloud chinks in an otherwise overcast day, make it all worth while. They remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing. You didn’t sign up for the nauseating nappies or the cacophonous crying, but you did sign up for what comes out of it – a fully functioning human being who will, God willing, make the world a better place.
I remember with Ethan how I kept thinking I’d miss this stage, whenever he did something particularly adorable, but I never actually did, because the next stage was just as delightful, just in different ways. Equally, just when we thought we couldn’t cope any longer with the present struggle, it passed and was forgotten as quickly as a squall of rain on a fine day. The struggles of today will soon be the lessons of yesterday, and the surprises of tomorrow may be every bit as difficult in different ways. God gives you grace to face it all. There’s good and bad at every stage, and it’s important to be ok with that, not dwelling on some rose-tinted past or stressing unduly about the future. Some seasons may have more good or more bad than others, but it all balances out nicely in the long-term purposes of God.
Enjoy each stage as it comes – that’s what I keep telling myself. Live in the present, soaking it up. You never know how long it will last. Don’t resent that pressure on your time or treasure because with it comes a compensation that will soon be just a cherished memory. Don’t miss the good because you’re so focused on the bad and don’t let tomorrow’s demands muscle in on today’s devotion.
Parenting, like everything else, has the good, the bad and the ugly. Same goes for everyone, in whatever phase of life. Don’t be too quick to judgement or jealousy – like as not if you saw their problems you’d be thankful for your own, and that thing you resent about someone else might be part of a hidden story you don’t know about. Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s be real with each other. As the Bible says, ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15). Let’s take the good with the bad, enjoying the one and enduring the other, knowing that it’s the same for all of us. Blessed be the name of the Lord.