The Real Challenge of Parenting…and no, it’s not our kids.

I have four kids whom I love and adore. They are my sun, moon, heart, and all the other ridiculous sappy things. Additionally, I homeschool four said kids. This means they are also the cause of the tic under my left eye and why I sneak chocolate in the pantry on tough days. But even with the hard days, I wouldn’t change anything. I mean, how else would I get to relearn the algebra that I haven’t used since high school? Seriously though, we chose to homeschool them, which was one of the best parenting decisions we made for our family.

But there are some days when I just don’t want to hear,

“Mom, what’s…”
“Mom, where’s…”
“Mom, when…”

One.
More.
Time.

Days where I absolutely don’t want to play guessing games.

“Guess what that smell is.”
“Guess what that slimy goo in the fridge is.”
“Guess where I stuck that Lego block?”
Or just in general, “Guess what?”

And days where I definitely do not want to play referee, zoo keeper, or judge and jury. But I think that’s just my human nature at work. Parenting, in general, has shown me how selfish I really am.

 I read that sentence, and it strikes me as odd. 
Me?? Selfish? 

How could that be? I mean, my goodness! I’d spent 16 years serving in the church in every capacity. Cleaning, children’s ministry, homeless ministry, teaching, and preaching, I did it all. I was the model churchgoer. 

And anyone that knows me knows that.
And anyone that could see me could see that.

But effective parenting isn’t really about people seeing or knowing what you do. Oh, sure, it may feel like everyone’s watching how you handle the 3-year-olds meltdown in Target, but no one sees what you know. That the missed nap and a thrown-off routine induced tantrum has turned a simple shopping trip into a scene from Fight Club, and now you’re fighting the urge to join your kid in his meltdown in the checkout lane.

No one sees…
…the shadow sitting on the floor outside of her kid’s bedroom door, weeping over the loss of what “normal” might have been for her neurodivergent daughter.

… the inside of the doctor’s office when the diagnosis is something that should never be uttered in the same sentence as a child’s name.

…the burden of guilt a parent carries after a divorce, after a move across the country, or sometimes having to say no when all their friend’s parents are saying yes.

…the battle a parent wages every day for the kid who is hooked on drugs, the kid addicted to porn, or the kid fighting feelings of worthlessness so deep they’re cutting themselves just to feel alive.

…the internal struggle of the person moving through the seasons from individual, to spouse, to parent, all the while battling guilt, letting go of their own dreams, and conforming themselves to new identities. 

This isn’t the kind of stuff that gets blasted out on social media. Nobody wants those memories popping up on Facebook every year. It’s not being announced during church service from the pulpit or being shared in a group text with a bunch of people, or loudly put on display at the next PTA meeting. Nobody is seeing that stuff… At least, we hope they’re not. 

 But it’s that stuff that’s real and proves, tests, and reveals who we really are no matter how we look or what we do on the outside. The stuff that most people don’t see. 

And sometimes, the worst just comes from our own selfishness. 

Maybe it’s been a day where nothing disastrous has happened. We simply don’t want to answer one more question, dry one more tear, referee one more fight, wipe one more butt, install one more parent app, make one more dinner (that no one will eat), or find a life lesson in one more situation today.

We really just want to check out. Take a nap without a small foot in our spleen. Watch a show that doesn’t include muppets. Go to a restaurant that doesn’t have crayons and a paper menu. Take a trip without hearing the words mom or dad repeated at one-second intervals into eternity. 

Selfishness. 

I’m guilty.

Mommy blogs, grandparents, and well-meaning soccer moms remind us how magical and fairy dust-y it is to be a parent, daring anyone to argue with them. So most parents just swallow their guilt and stay silent.

Because no one wants their selfishness on display. 

I certainly don’t. I don’t want to be reminded that at my core, I battle myself. Yet every time the mirror of self is held up in front of me by my response to the challenge of parenting, I remember….

…It’s in the battle that we grow. 

I refuse to walk in guilt. Instead, I’ll remind myself of the lessons I’ve been taught.
~That it’s through parenting that I’ve learned more about myself, the grace of God, His love, and His mercy than all the sermons I’ve ever heard preached. 

~That parenting has shown me that it’s less worrying about what areas my kids are growing in and more about me growing with them. 

~That having a bad day just gives me an opportunity to model forgiveness, grace, and love.

But most importantly, I’ll remind myself that my kids are my first ministry, my biggest challenge, my greatest joy, and most importantly, worth defeating my own selfishness for. 

…And while parenting is certainly not all magic, wonder, and fairy dust, it is a beautiful journey filled with mountain tops and valleys and one I wouldn’t miss for anything. 

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