Parenting children comes with ups and downs. This up and down life of parenting is something I am living right now in an intensified, exaggerated form. The doctors warned me that even after several days in a row of upward trends to be aware that Olivia might take a few steps back at any given time.
I know this, and to a certain extent I’m expecting this. I’m expecting it in the sense that I’m always a little tense wondering what each day is going to bring. But then when I do have that bad day, the day where we go backward instead of forward, the day where I don’t see any obvious improvement or, worse, a significant setback, the day I wonder if I am going to make it through, I suddenly find myself worried.
I search the internet for all of Olivia’s symptoms and find a host of long-term potential diagnoses. Maybe Olivia won’t heal completely. Maybe there is something else wrong with her brain. Maybe we are just uncovering the tip of the ice berg when it comes to Olivia’s diagnosis. What will await me in another month when Olivia passes the expected recovery time and still isn’t ‘normal’?
These are all questions that I wrestle with on a daily basis, but they are especially intense and emotional for me when we have a bad day. Like today.
But all parenting is like this. My friend thoroughly and helpfully explains how recency bias applies to parenting. In a nutshell, we often take one good day and think we are sailing through parenting. Or, we have a really, really bad day and we project our children spending their lives in a jail cell. My child is throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store. Oh no, she has no self-control. Can you imagine where no self control can lead her in life?
This isn’t to minimize character issues, but it is a reminder that as children grow and mature they will not always follow an upward trajectory. Sometimes we will be on top of the hill, and other days in the valley. And there will be many days throughout the parenting journey where we will find ourselves rolling around in the mud pit.
The brain is a complex organ. As a mom, I feel helpless. I can’t kiss Olivia’s booboo and make it all better. I can’t giver her some Tylenol and tell her all will be well tomorrow. I can’t make her a delicious, soothing pot of chicken soup, prop her up with some pillows, and have a movie night to make being sick feel special. I can’t put a band-aid on and cover up the sore. I can’t even really help her understand what she is going through.
It is a microscopic view of parenting. I love, nurture, and guide her. I shield her from circumstances that she might not yet be able to handle. I comfort her when she is upset. I guide her gently through her emotions. And when I can’t guide her, I simply hold her and pour more love on her. I pray with her that God will heal her brain. I tell her that Mommy loves her no matter what happens in the future. I tell her I will always be there for her.
And then I go to my room and I beg God to have mercy on her body.
And aren’t the hearts of our children much the same? Our children have beautiful, fragile hearts that are so complex it can make us feel helpless. We can’t kiss their sinful hearts and make them sinless. We can’t give them some medicine to make them sin no more. We can’t soothe and coddle their sin to make it feel special. We can’t put the band-aid of behaviorism on only to find them ripping open scabs when they are 15, 20, or 30 years old. We can’t even explain why they do what they do except to say they are sinners in need of a Savior.
So we love, we nurture, and we guide. We shield them from exposure to sin that they are not mature enough to handle. We love them when they fail. We guide them through the ups and downs of life. And when we can’t guide, we pour love on them and take them to the Giver of life. We pray with them that God will cover their sinful hearts with gracious forgiveness. We tell them that no matter how they sin, how they fail, we will love them. We show them unconditional love just like God has shown us unconditional love.
And then we go to our room and beg God to have mercy on their sinful hearts.
Just like I don’t yet know exactly how Olivia’s brain will heal, I don’t know where my children’s hearts will be in 10, 15, or 20 years.
But just like I can’t base future prediction on my daughter’s good day or her bad day, I don’t place my hope for my child’s future in a good parenting or a bad parenting day.
My daughter’s brain, and the hearts of your children and mine lie in the merciful hand of a loving Father. It is not for me to know what the future holds. I simply remain faithful today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
I love, nurture, guide, and point them to the Savior that has met all their punishment for them.
And I trust God to give them Life.