I caught my husband’s eye across the table. We were out as a family celebrating his birthday. Our four children were squashed on either side of him around the circular table. My husband smiled, and gestured to our children. I knew exactly what he was saying. “Look! Look at all our beautiful children growing up.”
Later, we revisited that moment and talked about our children. I said, “I look around at the children, and I see these wonderful people! It’s our tribe.” There have been a lot of those sort of joy moments this year for me. I’ll tell you one story that hit right in the centre of my mother-heart.
Because of my husband’s work, we’ve moved many times. Consequences of these moves means various school changes for our children. When I mean various, I’m saying my eldest has been to nine different schools so far in her schooling. It’s hard as a parent, dragging your kids around knowing it’s not optimal for education. The start of this year marked another start at a new school for my children. I was desperate to see them after school on the first day, keen to know how their day went. They did fine, as I expected. Change has taught my kids many things, one of which is resilience. Later, my daughter was chatting to me and she elaborated on her day. One of the things she said made my heart leap with so much joy, it literally hurt.
My eldest two girls in high school are very different. One is kind, generous, bookish and introverted. It can take her a while to establish friendships. The other is friendly, confident, creative and extroverted. She makes friends easily and quickly. Miss Extroverted was telling me that at lunch time on the first day, she went to the library with her gaggle of new friends. She went to the library because she knew her sister would be there and she wanted to make sure she was okay. She introduced her new friends proudly to the sister-in-the-library. “My friends thought she was really nice,” Miss Extroverted said proudly of Miss Introverted. They hugged each other (yes, at school) and went on with their day. I tell you, nothing, nothing, prepares you for the joy of seeing your children love and care for each other. I marvelled at how, with no input from me, they know, understand, and care for each other.
There have been other moments like that, like when my son stood up to a peer who teased his sister. Or the time when I watched my girls walk ahead of me, chatting away like friends. Or when my teen daughter emailed me to thank me for supporting her through thick and thin. That moment my son hugged me hard. Watching the kids decorate the Christmas tree.
However, it’s not all rosy at our place. There have been many years of struggle when I felt like our family was failing. I still feel like that sometimes, but I’ve seen some of the fruit of our parenting dedication over the years. I went back and read some old posts in the midst of that struggle. For example, Three Words (2012) when my husband and I were grappling with the chaos and where to start. Or the beautiful post written by my husband (2014) about parenting challenges when work is all encompassing. And this one: When I’m Criticised as a Parent (2014); at this time, I was grappling with being criticised for something I should have been doing better as a mother (interestingly, two years on, the issue isn’t an issue anymore). These times have been spread over years. There have been many times, if one could be privy to see us, that opinions on our family may not be favourable. It’s so easy to only see snippets, whether that be sweet times or hard moments, and base opinions on them. But parenting is a long-long journey. You often don’t see the fruit of your investments for a long time after the fact. I think that is what makes it so challenging sometimes.
I guess what I hope to bring out of this post is encouragement for those who may feel the weight of parenting right now. It might be because you’ve had a host of pressures and challenges that have worn you down over a period of time, and you feel like you’re just dragging through. It might be because you have some tricky behaviour issues with the children and you’re not exactly sure how to handle them (yet). Maybe you’re just really, really tired at the moment. Can I just encourage you, to just keep investing; you don’t have to have it all worked out. I don’t know that anyone ever has it truly worked out anyway. Look forward to the moments, where you will be able to see the impacts of love and investment, they do come, and when they do, the joy is so deep and beautiful.