I always knew parenting would be hard. That’s why I decided a long time ago I probably shouldn’t be one. I’m a cautious person by nature. I don’t get into things that I don’t know I can do well. I don’t put myself at risk of failure or even situations that might cause pain. But God puts me there, time and time again.
When I went to my first foster parent information meeting 4 years ago, I seriously thought they would send a kid home with me that night. Then they began talking about the realities of foster parenting, the brokenness, the pain of walking with families and I freaked out. It took two years before I even stepped foot in another informational meeting. I knew I would never be ready for this.
My sweet girls have experienced more pain before their 3rd birthday than I have experienced in more than 30. When I stop and look at them through the lens of their story, my heart aches. My eyes fill with tears when I imagine what it must be like at 2 years old to be pulled from the only love you know, even when what you know is not safe. Or at 4 years old to make up stories for why I haven’t seen my first mommy and daddy in so long. Surely, something must have happened to them.
We walk a fine line. How much do you tell them? What do we say when they ask? What’s appropriate for them to know? Surely there are question marks in their mind, pieces of the puzzle that just don’t fit together. They’re old enough to know this isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Everything in me trembles when I think of one year, five years, ten years down the road and I don’t have answers for the deep wonderings they carry. I had a hard enough time yesterday just holding her while she cried with the pain and disappointment of a consequence I had to enforce. My heart cried too. It was the first time I could understand that old saying “it hurts me more than it hurts you”.
She made a bad choice. We had talked on the way to school about our day, prayed that we could be fun with friends and nice to our teachers because after all, today is a gymnastics day. But things didn’t go so well… spit was involved… and a teacher’s face… and well, there’s more in between but the facts aren’t important. The bottom line is, I had to say no to the most favorite thing in our week, gymnastics.
I held her as she cried. The kind of cry I imagine someone cries when something you love has died. I softly spoke to her how sorry I was that we couldn’t go, that we would try again tomorrow and the next day. We talked through what happened, what was she feeling, what were her choices and what could she do differently the next time she feels that way? In the back of my mind I imagined this same child in my arms and future talks about rejection and love and that her value is not based on someone’s opinions or actions but on who God says she is. And it hit me…. parenting is way hard.
I read a devotional earlier this week with the story of David, a young shepherd boy who was anointed as king. The prophet Samuel came to the house of Jesse where he had lined up all of his sons, except David. Surely the king would be one of the other sons, not David – he was the last born, the least qualified. But God saw something in David.
But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:6-7
Clearly, God’s ways are not our ways. He’s not looking for obvious external qualifications. God looks at the heart.
I am often overwhelmed with the place God has called me. This mother thing is not something I saw in me. There are moments when I cannot take all the cuteness of my life and I feel so undeserving. Then there are moments when I think I am going to break under the weight of the pain and I feel so unqualified. There are little hearts at stake here, God….
I know I may not always get it right. I have been spit at and slapped more times than I ever imagined I would in this life. Parenting has a lot more poop and pain than I could have anticipated. But here I stand, in the middle of the messiness, in the good days and the bad days and I thank God that he saw something in me.