Some days, parenting is gripping tightly to the handle of a door you are afraid may incur serious damage from an epic temper tantrum. It is praying, in those moments, that your son will grow up to be a man with self-control, who can both experience and control his emotions.
Other days, parenting is looking up from a full sink in surprise as the same son clears your guest’s dishes without being asked. It’s thanking God for the privilege of raising His children. Most days, it’s both.
How do we, as parents, live in (and appreciate) the already and not yet of our children as image bearers of God? The lists of parenting "must-do"s and "must-not-do" can be exceedingly exhausting. One simple way I’ve found to redirect a derailing day is to make eye contact.
When I rush through a day, ticking “to-do”s off my never-ending-list, I miss out on experiencing my children as people rather than a summation of tasks. But if I consciously take a moment to look into their eyes throughout the day, something in me remembers what I’m actually doing.
I’m not just sorting socks, or wiping bums, or cleaning rice off the floor (again). I’m raising God’s children, and hoping to give them glimpses of who He is. I’m trying to live out the Gospel in a tangible way by owning my (many) mistakes, pointing to the cross, and embracing forgiveness.
Often, I forget this meta-narrative of Christian parenting. But some days, I am clearly reminded. Like today, when my 3-year-old was describing a very ill child we saw in the ward while handing out cookies. He described his peeling mouth as “googling” (gurgling). I told him we could pray for this boy, if he wanted. He turned to our neighbor and asked, “Will you pray for him, too? Will you pray for him at your home?”
“I will,” the young man answered.
My heart skipped. When’s the last time a preschooler asked you to pray for someone else? This is a request we cannot disregard. Children are closer to the Kingdom of God, perhaps because their faith is so simple. While in many ways children are extremely self-focused, they are also much more self-forgetful.
As parents, we have countless opportunities over long days that coalesce into short years with our children. Already, I have learned more from my children than likely I will teach them. So today, I remind myself: look into their eyes. They see better than I do.