I remember the first time a stranger made it their responsibility to tell me that parenting a girl “gets worse.” My one-year-old wore a pink dress and said hello to every stranger at the store. I looked through a rack of clothes and she shouted an exuberant hello at the woman who stood nearby.
The woman smiled slightly and looked at me with a bit of warning and panic in her eyes.
“Enjoy her now,” she said and shook her head. “It gets worse. Just wait until she’s a teenager.” She shook her head again and walked away. I stood baffled.
Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. This is actually incredibly common. I recently posted on Facebook about this and the reaction was obvious. It’s everywhere. We warn each other. We warn non-parents. And you know who listens? Those little ears who squirm in booster seats. Those teenagers who sulk behind you. The kid who sits on the couch and peeks above the book while you commiserate with a friend over coffee.
Parenting is hard, yes. It demands day after day that you lay down your life. You don’t get to decide to lay down your life one day and then not think about it again. It’s day by day, sometimes minute by minute. Is it always fun? No. Definitely, not always 100% fun. And maybe this is where the crossroads come. I see plenty of inspirational quotes on Pinterest and in book titles that give this message: “Put you first. Choose happiness first. Do what’s best for you first.” There is this very loud message to cut out relationships that are “toxic” and too needy. Tell me — is that what I’m to do with my kid who has asked for the umpteenth time for another snack? Because that’s needy and at 3:30 p.m. feels very toxic.
Parenting, er let me clarify, good Bible-centered parenting goes against the grain of everything our culture is telling us to do and be. You cannot “treat yo self” when you have to wake up multiple times a night to feed a baby. You cannot cut out toxic relationships with your teenager who wrestles with so much and wants to mouth off at you because you’re the only person there. You cannot “put you first” when your eight-year-old needs you to sit and play a game about My Little Pony.
Now listen — I get it. You’re tired. I’m tired. You need a break. I know. I don't think you should lose your mind. I don't think you should avoid the shower for a week. I don't think we should become doormats. But what’s the worst thing that happens when we choose to lay down our own "yes" for our children at the cost of our own personal, immediate happiness? Something akin to “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” I think.
Parenting gets more complex with age, I agree. Harder conversations. More intricate disciplinary issues. More eyes on the clock, heart, computer history, and relationships. More things that send you to your knees night after night while you beg God to rescue their hearts.
But worse? For your flesh? Maybe.
For your temporary happiness and sleep schedule? Possibly.
For your sin nature to flare up and show its ugly head? Absolutely, yep.
But for these souls? For their ears and hearts, futures and memories? No. Never worse.
And at the end of our days, when our skin sags from all of the tired nights and the weight when we carried the hopes and dreams of the children we love, I hope we can look at their exhausted young faces while they bounce an infant and truthfully say, “It only gets better from here.”