Is there any job more thankless, and at the same time more humbling and enlightening, than parenting?
“Why do you think I’m doing all of this?? I’m doing it for you.”
“Why do I even try?”
“Instead of complaining, can you maybe just say, ‘Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad’? That would be so nice.”
These were the thoughts that ran through my head at least a dozen times the week prior.
We’d just returned from our annual trip to Yosemite with some dear family friends.
This road trip had become a beloved summer tradition and we’d always looked forward to it. We’d take in a small but spectacular piece of God’s marvelous creation, bike through the majestic woods of the Yosemite Valley, raft down the peaceful Merced, and dauntlessly leap off boulders into perfectly pristine, ice cold water to cool off under the blazing hot sun.
But this year had been . . . different.
Over the course of the trip, I became increasingly aware of, and bitter about, how tiring, thankless, and even lonely, parenting can be.
In order for us to “vacation,” we moms still had to research, book, plan, grocery shop and pack for everyone, and once there, prep and cook meals thrice a day, every day. The dads still had to load and unload the cars, drive the 300+ mile trek each way and help with the heavy stuff. And so on.
All this had never miffed me before. But this year, I became hyper-aware of how entitled, demanding and self-centered the kids behaved. How they’d demand, or reject, food, how they’d snap at me as I applied their sunblock or brushed their hair, how they refused to go in the water if they didn’t have that raft – that one that wasn’t fully inflated and would require the dads to go back to the cabin to fetch the pump to bring back to the river to the reinflate – all when there were four perfectly plump tubes already with us and ready to go.
And while I’d been looking forward to some overdue family time, our daughter hopped into another family’s car for the caravan ride up…and their raft…and their sleeping quarters. And our eldest played video games or billiards or whatever else, with his buddy. The entire trip. And our youngest forgot our summer project – learning to listen and respect others’ words and personal space.
The trip felt like all work, no play, and one “teachable moment” after another…‘til there just weren’t any teaching – or patience – left in me.
Moms, Dads, Comrades, how many times have you felt like this?
Sullen and disappointed, throughout the trip, I waited for a sign, any sign, that maybe the kids would like to spend a little bit of time with us – Mom and Dad – the ones who made the magic happen. But they were too busy spending every waking moment with their friends or on their electronic devices or playing games or anything other than hanging with us.
I came home feeling hugely dissatisfied. It just felt all wrong that year.
On the night of our return, looking for some comfort and – let’s be honest, some pity – from the Lord, I confessed (complained) to Him about how hurt I felt.
“God, this trip sucked. I’m so disappointed. The kids didn’t even spend, or want to spend, any time with us. Not once did they look for us, seek us out, miss us. Not once did they say ‘thank you.’ We did all that for them, and they don’t even realize it!”
A still, small voice whispered back, “How do you think I feel?”
I was dumbstruck. And rattled.
“You’re upset because of all the work you put into planning a vacation.
Did you know I’ve spent eternity preparing and planning for you? I do everything for you. I’ve planned out every good and perfect gift, for you. I’ve prepared a wonderful home and a life, not just here but…forever – for you.”
Goosebumps rushed over my body and I felt a burning lump in my throat as the tears welled up.
What was I thinking? How could I be so blind? So short-sighted? So hypocritical??
My own loving Father, Creator, waited Every. Single. Day. for me to – what were my words?? – spend, or want to spend, time with Him.
How many mornings, or days, or nights had I broken His heart? How many times had He lovingly looked down at me and sighed, “Not once did she look for me, seek me out, miss me today. Not once did she say ‘thank you’ today. I did, do, all that for her, and she doesn’t even realize it.”
Friends, is there any better parent? Anyone who’s loved more deeply? Given more freely? Invested more of Himself?
Everything I have – He has provided. Every time I’ve disappointed, He has been patient.
Maybe I’m the one – to have more gratitude.
To remember my Father’s love.
To trust His good intentions.
To spend time with Him.
To stop demanding more, or something else.
To stop making Him wait for me to miss Him, come to Him, thank Him.
Be humble. Or be humbled.
I am but a child myself.