This week, my sabbath and a snow day coincided, meaning the whole family was home. My sabbath is usually the day I take care of household stuff – cleaning, errands, etc. But I knew the kids would not patiently handle that as well. So, the girls and I suited up, and off we went into the snow. I confess I used some of the time to dig out my car, but the rest of the time we spent building a snowwoman and sledding down a neighborhood hill. Several other kids joined us, and we found ourselves laughing and having a truly fun morning. We topped off the morning with yummy grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate. Later that evening, my younger daughter needed to go to dance class, so the three of us headed over together and the older one played while I read a book. As we were leaving, totally unprompted, the older daughter said a heartfelt thank you for being able to come and play.
The story could end there, and you might imagine that our day, and, in fact, parenting in general, is a wonderfully blissful experience of fun, respect, and mutuality. When I look at most parents, that is the impression I get of their experience of parenting: that parenting is the most wonderful thing in their lives, bringing them great fulfillment, joy, and purpose. And some days, parenting is that for me. But most days, parenting is hard. At the end of that idyllic Monday, children melted down, said hurtful, disrespectful things, and refused to follow instructions. What had been a cooperative day became a battle-of-wills evening. And more days are like that evening than like that morning.
As I have been reflecting on that contrast this week, I realized I could either feel deflated, focusing on the negative behavior, feeling like a failure of a parent, wondering why I cannot seem to sustain the more joyful moments; or, I could choose to hold fast to the joy of the day, letting the negative have less power. Maybe other parents do that more naturally, or maybe I am just to too prone to pessimism, but it was clear as my children fell to sleep, it was my choice how I would remember the day – and how I would say goodnight to the children.
I imagine God has similar challenges with us. Though I am my toughest critic, I trust that God is much more inclined to see my goodness than I ever am. I trust that God remembers everyday how when God created humankind, God said it was very good. I trust that God sees little wonderful things we do even when we do not realize we are doing them. And if God has that much grace with us, perhaps we can share that grace with others – in the grocery line that stalls when the checker has to page the manager, with the friend who is complaining…again, and during the doctor’s office wait that is way too long. And if you are a parent who is struggling with one more temper tantrum or sassy comment, perhaps you can also see your child with God’s grace, remembering the child is just trying to develop into an independent, competent, confident person – which is really hard when you are tired, immature, and physically and emotionally incapable of being what you want to be right now. We know how hard it is because we need that same grace from God. Everyday. Hang in there, everyone! You can do this. Give yourself a break. And give those kids, strangers, neighbors, and friends a break too. We all need it this week.