I think I’d been living under the delusion that I should not need a break. I mean, really: How can a strong, capable woman need a break from her amazing life?
Well, she can get tired.
I truly have almost everything I have ever wanted in this life. I have Jesus in my heart. I have a husband who is 100% committed to me. I have three healthy, gifted children. We have a nice home, a supportive extended family, solid friendships, fulfilling ministries and on and on and on. I really do have it all.
But, man! I’m tired!
When I had three children under the age of five, I was physically wiped out by 4:00 almost every afternoon. My kids were fun little preschoolers! They were energetic and creative and well-mannered and energetic and smart and, well, energetic. I didn’t sleep well in those years. My senses were on high alert through every night. Did the baby need fed? Was someone getting sick? Did I hear crying? I mostly catnapped my way through those years, always ready for the solid sleep of the dead that my husband managed to enjoy almost every single stinkin’ night. (What was up with that?!)
Now, I have three teenagers. They are amazing. Remarkable. So very gifted. They can be so much fun, and they can make me laugh hard enough to shoot my drink through my nose. I love, love, love my time with them! While there have been uncertain moments, never in my life has a day gone by when I have regretted any financial and career “sacrifices” we have made for me to stay home with them. I love them to the very core of my being, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my days than as their momma.
But I’m still tired.
While my parenting game used to be primarily physical, it is now more mental, emotional and spiritual. Childhood misbehavior was so black-and-white. Toys were not picked up. Siblings were pinched. Lies were told. Rules were clearly broken. Consequences were quickly dealt. The expectations were clear on both ends.
Snuggles, cuddles, made-up songs and silly games were acceptable forms of communication, and public displays of affection were perfectly acceptable.
Things are just different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. I’ve found that while they are adjusting to all of the internal and external changes they’ve got going on, I am adjusting as well. I’m learning new likes, new dislikes, figuring out more effective ways to communicate, adapting to their more adult-ish personalities while still allowing for them to be kids.
People used to warn me about the teenage years with a “You just wait…!” mentality. I resented that. I refused to anticipate that my kids were going to be trouble just because they were teens. I didn’t think it was fair to the kids. I still don’t. The uncertainty that affects most teens is normal. They are often just insecure with so much. Perfectly capable young people doubt the value of their own existence during this season of their lives. I think the danger during this season of parenting is to take it personally. It’s easy to do, because it seems so personal. I mean, we are the ones who see the good, the bad and the ugly, right? We are the safe place for them to let those insecurities fly in whatever form seems right at the time. Is their behavior normal? Yes. Always acceptable? Um, no.
The truth is, neither is mine. When my kids were little, and I was so irrationally exhausted that I could (and would) cry (and quite possibly scream) over spilled milk, my kids gave me an awful lot of grace. Their sweet faces still smiled, their soft lips still offered kisses, and their chubby arms still wrapped my neck in hugs. Although I strove to teach them grace back then, they naturally modeled the concept much more clearly and easily than I did. The purity of a child’s love is a miraculous thing.
This is why it’s so important now for me to take a break. I need time every day to bask in the love of my Heavenly Father so that I can call on His unconditional love. I need wisdom. I need clarity. I need Truth. I need strength. He makes all of these things–and so much more–available to me as I seek them.
And, sometimes I need a change in scenery–a walk outside, coffee with a friend, lunch with my siblings or an overnight with my mom. The fact is that this parenting journey is an exhausting one. I believe that it is a spiritual battle, one in which the stakes are high. I need to do whatever I need to do to stay the course. I am not called to be a friend to my kids. I am called to be their momma. And parenting takes a special kind of commitment.
Lord, thank You for equipping us to do the job You’ve called us to do. Even more, thank You for giving us the privilege of helping to raise these extraordinary children.