I can only imagine how different parenting would feel if I viewed it as a prison instead of a privilege. Parenting is the toughest job on earth, and can push our buttons beyond anything we’ve known. It’s also the greatest privilege, for where else do we have daily access to a living, breathing angel? Where else are we so close to representatives of God, to these beings whose hearts shine with unadulterated purity and grace? And where else do we have daily opportunities to see our growing edges so we can work to expand them?
One of the greatest challenges with our son has been around sleep. From day one, our little guy didn’t like the concept of sleep and resisted it with all his might. Most times he would fall asleep fairly easily only to awaken thirty minutes later crying. This pattern continued all night long, six to ten times a night, for our first two years. There were days when I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown from sleep deprivation.
The irony is that my biggest fear prior to becoming a mother was sleep deprivation. I was always someone who loved sleep and thought I needed eight solid hours a night to function properly. As is often the case, what we fear most about parenting turns out to be the area where we most need to grow. The mainstream advice in the area of sleep told me that I needed to teach my son the essential life skill of self-soothing and that the only way to do that was to let him cry himself to sleep. While on some level I agreed that my son needed to learn how to self-soothe eventually, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how that was going to happen healthfully by allowing him to cry, scream, and dry heave until he fell asleep. While I think this method can work for some children without leaving scars, my husband and I knew it wasn’t the right choice for our little guy. Which left us with no other option than to figure out how to surrender to our son’s sleep patterns and needs and ask ourselves to grow to accommodate them.
So we learned to surrender. We learned to find the humor in our situation. We learned that we had immense reservoirs of patience and we realized that our capacity for endurance surpassed what we ever thought conceivable. None of this would have been possible had we not loved our son beyond measure and viewed our parenting job as a privilege. This isn’t to say that over the years I haven’t been challenged repeatedly. As he started to sleep through the night more consistently, falling asleep became harder and harder, and there were nights when, after an hour or two of him squirming and flopping, I had to leave the room for a few minutes to calm my frustration. But those moments are drops in the bucket compared to the overarching sense of privilege I have when I’m helping him fall asleep. Because always, every night, there’s something he says or does that shows me God.