Want to know what the worst part of parenting is?
It's not tantrums in the grocery store. It's not giving up quiet mornings, sharing illnesses, feeding other people from my plate, or sacrificing ever watching television, ever, before 8 p.m. It is not my never-ending work of staying hydrated. It's not interrupted phone calls, or missing the sermon (every. single. week.) to nurse a baby. These are inconveniences, yes, and annoyances, to be sure. But none of them are the worst part of parenting.
The worst part of parenting is that my children are mirrors of me.
When I am stressed, they are too. When I am impatient with one boy, I am almost certain to see him impatient with his brother a little later. Anxious? Then the baby won't sleep, because she's feeding off of my anxiety. Exhausted, distracted, overwhelmed? Produces listless, bored, frustrated children. Chaos almost always ensues.
My children reflect my mood back to me. And until recently, I have not liked what I have seen.
I say this is the worst part of parenting because I want to always be able to give my kids the ideal. The most nutritious meal, the most focused attention, inexhaustible learning opportunities. I want their lives to be full of only good things. The problem, of course, is that I am human. I am not always at my best. I get overwhelmed, or anxious, or stressed, and seeing the fruit of my emotions in their lives only adds to my anxiety.
If I want happy, calm children, then I must offer them a happy, calm mother. Somehow yelling at them to stop yelling simply does not work. Becoming frustrated with their level of frustration only ratchets up the moment. If I want my children to learn to control themselves, I must first master my own emotions.
It is one more example of how parenting draws me to Christ. I would love to think I could avoid any negative emotion, in order to ensure my children avoided the same. But that is simply impossible. Hardship is a part of life. Lately I have been praying to be the kind of mother that will draw my children to Christ. Whether they seek refuge in Him because of my failures, or are drawn to him through my successes, is not the point. I would love to think I can offer my children the ideal all of the time, but that goal is futile. I hope, instead, to point them to Christ.