Archives For Parenting

Minding the Moments

January 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

The other day I was struck by the fact that in less than 16 years my oldest child would be a legal adult. When I shared this realization with my husband, he smiled amusingly, probably thinking that this was only something that a mother would consider a “short time.” Although I realize that many people have children that are much closer to being on the brink of adulthood it nevertheless caused me to pause. It seems only a short time ago that we were coming home from the hospital and with the lightning paced that the past two years have flown by, I can only imagine that the next 16 will be gone before we know it.

While there is a part of me that it sad at the rapid growth of our daughter, rationally I know that this is a good thing. A parent wants their child to grow, develop, and eventually enter the great big world as a responsible adult. However, this realization prompted me to recall again that the moments are fleeting. I will never have another “today” with my children. The days that seem so long will be gone before I know it.  Every moment counts, even the seemingly insignificant ones, because there are no “do overs” in the sands of time.

This means I want to take every opportunity that I can to teach my children – not just what it means to be a responsible adult, but what it means to be a person who solely depends upon God. When we hear sirens blaring in the distance, I want to stop and remind them that we need to pray for whomever the emergency personnel are rushing towards. When something unexpected and inconvenient happens, I want to demonstrate my confidence in the One who orchestrates the setting of the sun and the dawning of the moon, knowing that what happens to me is not outside His hands. At the start of the day and at the end of the day, I want my life to be replete with gratitude for all that He has provided and all that He will.  I want my moments to be filled with lessons – both stated and observed – of what it means to live a life for the sake of eternity.

Of course, it would be tempting to try to contrive these moments. But kids, even when they are 16 years away from becoming an adult, are remarkably gifted at seeing what’s authentic and genuine. Therefore, the best way to ensure that my kids learn the lessons I desire is to conform my life to the aspirations for them. While this won’t make the moments past by any slower, it will help ensure that each moment is spent mindfully.

Minding the Moments

Speaking Softly

January 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

President Teddy Roosevelt was famous for saying “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

The Bible leaves out the part about the big stick, but does state that “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1a). Since it seems that most people indicate that they dislike conflict, one would think that this truism would be heeded more often. Perhaps the reason that it is not is because we are unsure what a “soft answer” is. Does it mean that we need to keep our opinions to ourselves and only state niceties? After all, the Bible also states that it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11). Or perhaps it means that we are to give compliments to those we are frustrated with and by doing so “heap burning coals” on our enemy’s head (Prov. 25:22). While it is assuredly a good thing to both overlook an offense and to say kind things to those who wrong us, there are some circumstances where the continuance and growth of a relationship seem to require that we let someone else know what is bothering us. In this case, how can we ensure that our response can be classified as “soft?”

One way to answer this question is to look at the definition of the words that we use. The word soft can be defined as “having a pleasing quality involving a subtle effect or contrast rather than sharp definition.” A “soft” answer then won’t draw rigid distinctions but instead will please the other by extending grace. When we respond softly it doesn’t mean that we continue unheard; it means that our response considers the other person and their perspective in shaping our communication efforts.

Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate this is to look at an example. For instance, can you hear the difference between telling someone “I didn’t feel like my time was respected” versus stating “You were disrespectful of my time.”? Not only is the second one full of more intense accusation but by using the word “disrespect” it indicts the other’s motives. Both sentences seemingly communicate the same thing, however the first can be more easily classified as a “soft” answer because it indicates a “subtle” contrast rather than a sharp, and perhaps aggressive, distinction.

What is shown in the example above has practical implications for a variety of circumstances in our lives. Our relationships with our spouse, children, friends and other loved ones will benefit from soft answers that diffuse, rather than incite, wrath. However, doing so requires a deliberation and mindfulness to our words that we are usually not quick to employ. Our emotions tend to get the best of us and instead of being “slow to speak” we are quick to voice our opinions. Speaking softly then not only requires that we are purposeful with how we say things, it requires that we take time to think through the implications of our words before we speak. In doing so, our words are more likely to be pleasing to the other and to turn away the wrath that we otherwise might face.

As readers of this blog know, I recently acquired a new role as “mom.” As God would ordain it, shortly after I received this title, several of my friends became first-time mommies too. As a result, I have had many conversations, Facebook messages, texts and emails with questions, frustrations and sheer confusion as we travel this road together. I thought it might be helpful to put share some of what I’ve learned for other followers of Christ who are starting this journey or who anticipate doing so in the future. Perhaps the fact that it’s not brand-new to me, yet I’m not far removed from the initial induction either, gives me a different perspective than most have on this subject. If nothing else, I’m sure it will give me something to look back on and laugh about in the years ahead.

Dear New Mom:

Welcome to the craziest roller coaster ride that you will likely ever experience. If your little one has been on this Earth for at least 24 hours, you are probably already aware that motherhood isn’t exactly like what you anticipated. In a short amount of time this new role can take you on more twists and turns than a high-speed racetrack. You will likely experience some of the greatest thrills of your life as a result of this new responsibility, and at the same time, you will likely face some of your biggest doubts and fears. If you are in one of those times where the doubts seem to outweigh the joys, let me assure you, it does get better. It’s not that the questions won’t persist – they will, or new ones will appear – but in the midst of wondering whether you are doing it right, your little one will give you a charmed smile that makes you realize it’s all worth it.

You’ve probably already faced the question that every new mother is asked – “how is it going?” It’s a loaded question because everyone expects to hear your litany of reasons why you love being a mom. Yet sometimes those reasons can be obscured by the enormity of the task. If you’re like me, the first few weeks of taking on this new job are harder than you imagined. But you don’t want to say that. Otherwise people may think that you don’t recognize what an awesome privilege you have been given. It’s o.k. You can both acknowledge that it’s hard and be grateful that God saw fit to give you this opportunity. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, regardless of how people respond. The sleepless nights, the dependence that your little one has on you, the concern over each new development and whether it’s “normal,” combined with a tidal wave of hormones that are rushing through your body – these things are not easy. But remember this – even if there are moments where you think you can’t handle it – God didn’t call you to this role expecting that you would do it all on your own. He called you to this ministry with the desire that you would depend upon Him to accomplish what He has called you to do. There are days where you will wonder if you are good enough – you aren’t. But He is. And as you rely on Him, He will provide you with the grace, wisdom, strength and fortitude you need to be who He desires you to be as you parent this little life.

You may have already forgotten what your life was like before your little one arrived. It’s amazing how quickly they integrate themselves. It is true what they say – your life will never be the same. While eventually your little one will learn to sleep through the night, and you will again too, restlessness will now accompany your nighttime dreams. If you were a heavy sleeper before you became a mom, you can probably kiss that goodbye. Your child’s cry will quickly disabuse you of the ability to block out any sound in order to count sheep. You’ve also probably realized that being a mom means that your life is now about sacrifice. Motherhood is great at revealing those areas of your life that you thought were “yours” – those things that are supposed to be under your control and are not to be messed with. Your schedule, your preferences, and your proclivities are now subjugated to the development of this little life.  Privacy is probably a thing of the past, at least for quite a while, as any mom whose toddler has stuck their fingers under the bathroom door can tell you. It’s o.k.; your Savior gave up a lot more on your behalf (Phil. 2:7). While sometimes the lessons are hard, be grateful that God has used this new responsibility to conform you more into the image of your Son. He could have used a different role, something that didn’t come with a child’s love and affection.

I would hate for you to think that being a mom is all about giving things up though – you also gain a lot. You will garner a new appreciation for the love that your Father has for you as you realize in a new way what it meant for Him to sacrifice His Son on your behalf (Jn. 3:16). You will also probably quickly learn to take things in stride more; your little one will change so much from day-to-day that you quickly learn that there are a lot of things in life that aren’t permanent so it’s best to concentrate on those things that will have eternal significance. You will also get adept at multi-tasking in ways that you probably didn’t expect; you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in the short spurts that your child naps.  And if you are blessed to be married to a man who is a great dad, your love for him will grow even stronger as you get a front-row seat to watching him train up your child according to God’s ways.  Your life won’t be the same, it’s true; and you will be so grateful for that fact.

As with any ministry that God gives us, there are good days and tough days when it comes to being a mom. However, as with any ministry the most important thing to remember is that being a mom is not about you. Your job as a parent is to put God’s glory on display – both in how you parent and in the way you respond to the challenges that it throws at you. When you don’t know what to do you will be tempted to seek wisdom from a lot of places – your mom, the Internet, friends and strangers that have walked the road before. However, while they may have good advice, make sure that the first place you go is to the One who created the life that you’ve been entrusted with. While others may be parents, God called you to parent this child. And your child is not the same as mine. Let motherhood draw you into a deeper dependence upon your Heavenly Father.  Seek His wisdom and His help as you walk the road that He has set before you. He is the One who has called you to this task, and He is the One who can best equip you for it.

Finally, remember this, while you always be a mom, you only have a limited time to parent your child. Make the most of that time. Be  intentional and diligent about telling your child about Christ. Pray for your child and pray with them. Model for them what it means to be a Christ follower, and talk with them about it too. Your child will learn a lot from you; at the end of the day, make sure you have taught them what is most important.

Welcome to mommyhood, dear one.  It’s a wild ride for sure. But thankfully, if you are a child of the King, it’s not one that you ride alone.

If anyone is keeping track, you know that I’m a bit behind on my blog of monthly parenting lessons. I have learned that I am just going to have to accept the fact that my schedule is no longer my own. At any time a little one can get sick, or go through a growth spurt, or have their sleeping patterns change, and my carefully crafted agenda goes out the window. However, I still appreciate the practice of recalling the lessons I have learned as I experience my first year of being a parent. Since my little one turned six months the same month as Father’s Day, my plan was to write what I’ve learned from watching my husband be a father. Despite my tardiness, I’m sticking with that plan.

Dads should be tough and tender – I’m blessed by the fact that not only am I married to a man who is a great father, but I had a great dad myself. One of the things I’ve learned from watching both of them is that a good dad is both tough and tender, and knows when it is best to exhibit each of these characteristics. One of the things I appreciate about my husband is that even though our child is very young, he is already purposefully and intentionally correcting her behavior when it is needed. However, I also value the fact that he desires to provide her comfort and reprieve from pain what that is appropriate. Dads have a difficult job; the good ones know when they need to be tough, but they are equally (and maybe even more eagerly) adept at showing compassion and love.

Dads and daughters have special smiles – When I tell the story of my little one being born, I often include the fact that my favorite part of the experience, besides my little girl’s arrival, is seeing my husband’s face when she made her debut. I have never seen joy express itself in quite that way before. Similarly, my daughter beams with delight when her dad gets home from work. She smiles for a lot of people but there is a special one that is reserved for him. It’s the way it should be and it thrills me that they share this connection.

Dads bring the fun – I think I’m a fairly fun individual, but in my role as mom, I’m all about protecting my little girl. My husband, however, is great at balancing the need to protect her with the desire to make sure she has fun. Even at this young age, he’ll come up with new games that they can play together – all the while making sure that while she’s safe, she’s also busy learning to try new things. I haven’t managed to get it in writing  yet, but I’m hoping he will agree to teach her how to drive. I think I’m going to be the quintessential nervous wreck if that task is left to me.

Spiritual Leadership Starts Young – The most important role that a dad has is being the spiritual leader for their children. While it may be tempting to think this doesn’t apply until the child can engage in conversation, as I’ve already mention, children start learning things from a very early age. I so appreciate that my husband is purposeful about including our daughter in our desire to serve, honor and know God. It is our prayer that one day this desire will become hers as well.

Six months went by fast and it’s amazing to think of all the things I’ve learned in that time. I’m looking forward to what I will continue to learn – not only about being a parent, but about being the woman God desires for me to be.

One of the things I have been reflecting on recently is how much a child changes during their first year of life. When you consider the number of things that they learn during that timeframe – from learning to hold their head up to learning to walk and say words – it really is a marvel. I would guess that there is no other single time in life when so much physical and mental growth takes place 365 days. With that being said, a lot of growth happens in the parent’s life during the first year as well. Here are some of the lessons I have learned over the past month:

Prepare to Be Humbled – It is inaccurate to say that this lesson is merely from the last month as I began learning it the first week of my child’s life. As someone who had been around a lot of kids throughout my life I thought I had a good grasp on what to expect from motherhood. It turns out I was wrong. Being a parent means being prepared for the unexpected and when the unexpected occurs it doesn’t take long to realize that there was no way to prepare for it. What you think you know can get turned on its head without a moment’s notice. Just as your child is learning to make sense of this world you are learning who your child is and how much you are reliant on God to parent them well. This lesson in humility is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing.  Yet God graciously redeems the difficult times to use them for His purposes and glory.

The Exception Shouldn’t Become the Expectation – Because your child is always changing, it is tempting to think that every new experience is a new milestone. For example, my husband and I took our kid to my work to meet some of my colleagues. Our little one was a trooper, staying up longer than normal and being pleasant the whole time. I thought this meant she had learned to consolidate sleep and extend time between naps. It turns out God was just generously allowing us to have some time to introduce her to others. When I start letting my expectations be shaped by the exceptions, I am bound to be disappointed. God doesn’t owe me a thing. The fact that He mercifully allows some days to go a little better than the rest as if the sun was shining down on me just a little bit brighter doesn’t mean He owes me those days. Instead I would do well to thank Him when they occur and to cherish them rather than count on them this side of Heaven.

Training Time – As I wrote about previously, it didn’t take me long to realize that even at a young age my child is beginning to understand things. Because of this, I know that I can begin, in very small ways, to train her in regards to how she should behave. What I’ve been reminded of, though, is that as I am training her, God is training me. He is molding and shaping me not only into the type of parent He wants me to be, but into the type of Christian He desires of His children. Recognizing that parenthood is one of the most refining experiences a person can go through makes me appreciate even more the privilege it is to be a mother.

Be The Example I Want Followed – Because my child is already beginning to make sense of the world around her, she is already beginning to observe my behavior and how I respond to things. Part of raising her up in the way that she should go means being an example of what I desire for her. It is my hope and prayer that she would come to know and serve Jesus at a young age and that her life would be defined as someone committed to Him. If this is what I want for her, I need to make sure that I am living the same way and therefore setting an example for her to emulate. She is learning all the time. I need to make sure that I’m teaching her the lessons  I want her to know.

It is such a privilege to be a parent. It is not without its challenges but the blessings are so very sweet. I’m grateful that God uses me even though I still have a lot to learn. And I’m grateful that in His perfect timing He teaches me just what I need to know.

If anyone is keeping track you know that this post is a bit late. I’m learning that sometimes life with an infant is just like that. Your days, weeks and months are hard to predict, and just when you think you can, they learn a new behavior or pick up a new habit and the whole schedule shifts. Thankfully, there’s little chance of being bored. Even more thankfully there are lots of lessons to still learn. So here are some of the ones I learned during my little one’s fourth month:

Laughter is good for the soul – I know this isn’t exactly a new lesson (see Proverbs 17:22). However, there is nothing quite like the first time your child knowingly and consciously gives you a big belly laugh. All of a day’s troubles can seem to momentarily disappear as you watch their face light up. If you can get them to do this repeatedly, several times in a row – that’s a huge bonus. In the hustle and bustle of things we can forget the joy that comes from a good laugh and we can be quick to dismiss those moments of simple joy. It’s important to cherish them when they come. Sometimes they will be few and far between which makes them all the more precious and sweet.

Pray over the little things – It’s probably not uncommon for new parents to spend a lot of time in prayer. There are so many unknowns with raising a little life. When they are young, it’s hard to tell if you are doing a good job since their cries can mean anything from “I’m tired” to “I’m in pain.” to “I am just having a rough day and this is the only way I know to express it. Personally, I found myself spending time in prayer over my little girl’s future but didn’t dedicate enough time to praying over those seemingly “insignificant” things that can rock a new mom’s day. God cares about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Mt. 6:25-30); He certainly cares about whether my little one is learning to nap. I need to seek His wisdom and help in all things – not just the ones that seem readily obvious are outside of my control.

Be careful what you say – Having two nieces is often a great reminder that I need to be careful with my words; I don’t want to say anything that I wouldn’t want them repeating. However, my four-month old has taught me that this vigilance should happen a lot sooner. We have sung songs to her since before she was born and after she arrived it was how we spent a considerable part of her awake time. As we have done so, she has learned to “stand” when we say that word (she holds onto our hands, of course, but the effort to stand when she hears the word is all hers). Already she’s picking up on things that are going on around her and learning to respond accordingly. My words should reflect the kind of heart that I want my child to have – a heart that is pleasing to God.

Say “yes” to help – I’ve written before about the blessing of helping hands, but it bears repeating. People who are willing to do things for you are gifts to be treasured. It’s easy to think that you should have things together – after all, your child is four months old already! But, as already mentioned, things are constantly changing and when you think that you have a handle on things, that’s just about the time that you can get knocked off your feet. I think it’s also important to realize that there’s likely a spiritual element at play here. Not only are we to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) but Satan would probably like few things better than to make us feel alone, discouraged and without support. When people offer to help – take it. When they don’t offer and you need it – say so. And make sure you are relying on the Helper. Being a parent is too big of a job to do it in your own strength.

Tricks of the Trade – Some things you don’t ever learn until you are a mom. Here are some I’ve learned:

a) Get a mobile that runs on batteries – not a wind-up one. Trust me – when your child has woken up for the umpteenth time because their wind-up mobile ran out just as they were falling asleep, you will thank me.

b) Sunshine is a great stain remover. If onsies, blankets, burp cloths, etc. get soiled (and they will), hang them in the sun. This worked better than any chemical compound I found.

c) If your child adopts a “lovey” or you want them to, get two of them. If one gets dirty (or worse yet, lost!) they can still have their precious security blanket to cling to.

My Desires vs. His Will

April 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

One of the signs of Christian maturity is that my desires increasingly align with God’s will. After all, if I am truly seeking first His Kingdom than I can trust that what I want and what God desires are the same thing. This is by no means an easy thing to do. Our sinful nature constantly battles against it. But as we do so we find that no only is our heart aligned with God’s purposes and plans, but that “all these things” are added to us as well (see Mt. 6:33).

Pursuing God’s will over my desires becomes a whole new ballgame once you become a parent. It is a natural for a mom or a dad to desire good things for their child’s life – to give their child, as has often been said, a better life than they had. I have had a wonderfully blessed life – wonderful parents, caring friends, a godly and loving spouse, and opportunities that have far exceeded what I would have dreamed of – and I desire all these things – and more – for my little girl.  I want to protect her, to keep her from harm and to promote her happiness. Yet God’s desire for her is not merely that she would be happy but that she would be holy. And as anyone who has walked with God for a while can tell you, holiness is not also engendered through the happiest of means.

This means that sometimes what God wills for her life and what I instinctively desire for her may not be the same thing. It means that I will not be able to protect her from every difficulty or help her overcome every challenge. It even means that I must give up my fleshly expectations in order to pursue heavenly ones. But as I do so, I’m trusting her to the will of a Heavenly Father who loves her more than I could imagine, and whose desire for good things in her life is even greater than my own.

So as I’m contemplating my child’s future, and dreaming dreams on her behalf, I must constantly say “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” and as she grows, I must strive to teach my little one to say the same.

Since becoming a parent I have often heard that it gets easier after the third month. I imagine that is not only due to the learning curve but also because you start settling into a routine with the new little human that has been welcomed into your home. I guess I can let you know next month if I have found this to be true for us. As for the last month though, it has been filled with its own adventures and lessons. Here is some of what I have learned:

  • Leverage Gospel Opportunities – Having a kid makes all kinds of people stop and say things to you when under normal circumstances they wouldn’t give you a second look. From meeting neighbors while out on a walk or interacting with strangers while out to dinner, I have met and talked with numerous people since becoming a parent. In one of these early incidents I realized that these were golden opportunities to be a witness for the sake of the Gospel. Whether it’s responding to a compliment on our baby’s appearance with an acknowledgement that it was God and not us who deserves the praise, or the initial exchange of trying to get my kid to smile leads to a deeper conversation, I need to be mindful of how God may be using me in the lives of these people I do not know. I need to be poised with responses that bring Him glory and that hopefully prompt others to seek Him as well.

 

  • Consistency (and flexibility) are key – You could probably divide parents up into two groups – those who like a schedule and those who adore spontaneity. Over this last month, I’ve learned that both are critical. Like most people, babies do better when they know what to expect so as much as you can being consistent with things like schedules and routines helps them to make sense of this world that they were abruptly thrown into. However, babies don’t keep a Google calendar and at any moment they can throw your carefully orchestrated routine a curveball. It’s important to be adaptable to these changes. Not only will it probably make for a more enjoyable home life for both you and your infant, you are teaching them a valuable skill for their future. After all, being content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11) includes those times when naps are interrupted, sleep is nonexistent and you just can’t figure out why your kid is upset.

 

  • It takes two, baby – When a child is really young, it may be tempting to think that all the need is their mom. Mothers are often the ones that feed them, that change them, that comfort them and that help them to sleep. However, there is a reason that when God established a family He did so with a mom and a dad (Gen. 2:24). I have been frequently reminded over the past month that this parenting gig would be so much harder without the love, support and help of my spouse. HIs presence is not only important for my kid but his presence helps me be a better parent. Without him, this journey would be very difficult.

 

  • It won’t be like this for long – There are days that seem like they won’t end. Around every corner there is a new challenge. However, in just the first three months our little one has undergone so many changes as she learns to adapt to the world around her. The sleepless nights won’t always be there, and neither will her reliance on me. The things that “I can’t wait to be over” may very well be the things I look back on and remember fondly. Things are going to change and it’s good to remember that – in the tough times as well as the good ones.

 

  • Babies Don’t Read Clocks or Calendars – I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about daylight savings time – I didn’t necessarily enjoy it but it wasn’t anything to get to worked up over either. That was until I had a kid. Losing an hour of sleep is rough on many adults; it’s even more difficult when you can’t tell time and don’t know that you’re supposed to adjust your sleeping patterns. Similarly, my young one has no idea when we have a busy day scheduled so she has no way of knowing that the night before is not the time to want to spend all night with Mom at her crib side. Changing my expectations regarding how my little one will respond to the things of which she is totally unaware, will probably put a lot less stress on me, and her.

In the midst of all the challenges and changes it can be difficult to remember what a blessing each day with my little one is. As Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” I’m so grateful that God has awarded me the good gift of my child. I look forward to many more lessons that He will teach me as her parent.

When It’s My Kid

March 14, 2013 — 6 Comments

Moms have an instinctive desire to protect. It’s why we’re usually the first resort to kiss boo-boos and to hug away tears. The nervous mom you see pacing back and forth as her kid climbs to the top of the playground jungle gym – that’s for the same reason. Moms are wired to want to keep their children from harm. This is the cause of many sleepless nights and many desperate prayers.

One of the prayers I often offered before my child was born was that she would be great in God’s Kingdom. After she was born the reality of this prayer hit me. There was a direct conflict between this request and my desire to protect her. Those who are great in God’s Kingdom have lives punctuated by ridicule, hurt and difficulties (see John 15:20; John 16:33). Most, if not all, are called to lay aside some of the comforts and conveniences of this life in order to serve God more faithfully. Those who are great in God’s Kingdom follow in the steps of His Son, and that is a path marked by challenges and pain.

Yet in praying this prayer for my little one I am acknowledging that there is something greater than what this world has to offer. In recognizing that the accolades here do not compare to the commendations in Heaven, I am preparing her, as well as myself,  for what I hope will be a life characterized by service and sacrifice for His Kingdom. In entrusting her to His care I’m recognizing that my ability to protect her is limited but His ability to provide for her is not. I desire to shield her, it’s true, but my greater desire is that she will be a partaker of Christ’s riches and live a life that glorifies Him (see Phil. 4:19; I Peter 5:10).

The costs of discipleship are high. Perhaps there’s no greater awareness of this than when it’s your kid that must pay them. But asking now that my kid may be worthy of the honor will hopefully make me better prepared to to support her when that day comes. And in doing so may I place her where she always belonged anyway – safely in the Heavenly Father’s hands.

Lessons of the 2nd Month

February 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

My little one is officially a little over two month’s old which means that’s the amount of time that I’ve been doing this parenthood thing (although I still technically think parenthood starts before the baby makes their official debut in this world but the amount of time she’s been out of the womb makes a convenient marker for assessing what I’ve learned). As any parent can tell you, it’s amazing the amount of things that can change in such a short period of time. A little one becomes more alert and engages more with the outside world during their second month. This creates some special moments and some challenges as well. Through it all, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

  • Parenthood is revealing – One of the things that a new parent quickly learns is how revealing parenthood is. The source of your strength is quickly on display. If you have been relying on yourself, all it takes is one sleepless night or one fussy day to demonstrate that you can’t do this gig in your own strength. The areas of sin that are so easily concealed under “normal circumstances” become unmasked when your child is crying and you have no idea what to do. Frustrations, insecurities, anxiety and other heart issues come out as you realize there are no step-by-step instructions on how to make things better. Hopefully these revelations drive us to our knees in prayers. Hopefully, they remind us of what we always should have known – we were never intended to live this life on our own strength anyway. 

 

  • There is no “normal.” –  There are a monumental number of parenting books at a new parent’s disposal. Add that to the number of blogs that are focused on the subject and there are no lack of published opinions available to the parent. Each book or blog post spouts the author’s perspectives, and most promise a system to tackle the problems that permeate a baby’s young life. The challenge is that no two babies are the same. What worked for one baby, or even one group of babies, may not work for your kid. “Normal” is an aggregated label, and unfortunately your individual child isn’t an aggregate. It takes patience to learn your own kid’s proclivities and in doing so you may find that what’s normal for them, isn’t what the books say at all.

 

  • Take what you can. Discard the rest. – Because there is no normal, everyone’s well-meaning advice may not work for you. Take what you can, filtering it through what you have already learned about your own child’s preferences and tendencies, and discard the rest. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t follow every piece of advice, especially because it won’t take long before the sources of advice will contradict each other. Also, just like each child is unique, people’s parenting styles differ too. What may have been a turnkey system for one person, may not fit your personality or how you desire to interact with your child. That’s o.k. People give advice because they care. Remember that. Appreciate that. But you don’t have to follow everything they say.

 

  • A smile can change a day.  – In the midst of the challenges there is nothing quite like when your kid smiles at you. You can be in tears because you just can’t figure out the best way to put her down for a nap, and she can look up at you, coo, and give you a bright, big smile and suddenly everything that seemed so strenuous moments before, evaporates. You may still want to figure out how to ease into nap time, but you also realize that for the most part, your little one is doing just fine. They’re learning; you’re learning, and that smile can seem to say “it’s o.k. – we’re going to figure this out together.” And you likely will. And the smiles at that moment will be all the more sweet because of the joys you shared along the way.

Being a parent is a privilege. It is a gift from God and a ministry that isn’t to be taken lightly. Thankfully, in the midst of all the uncertainties of being a parent, we can trust in the One who is certain, knowing that even as our kid changes, He never will (Ja. 1:17).