Monday, June 8, 2015

I Can Do Hard Things

Most of life's lessons seem to distill slowly--realizations dawn almost imperceptibly, and eventually I learn and grow. Every once in a while a learning moment is acute and memorable. One of those happened years ago when Jake was around 20 months and I was in the throes of morning sickness.

It was nighttime, I wasn't feeling great, and Cameron was putting Jake to bed. Jake was making it clear that he wanted Mom and not Dad to put him to bed, but I was too sick for that to be one of his options. I felt bad that I couldn't help him, and I worried as I prayed about the situation. The answer I received was surprisingly quick and clear: "It's not your job to give your child everything he wants or make life perfectly comfortable."

At the time that realization was a big change of focus. We had worked hard to build trust and security with Jacob. But that didn't mean we needed to give him everything he wanted.

Then a few weeks ago our family was at a local fun center for the morning with our homeschool group. We had a great time bouncing, skating, and eating pizza together. Towards the end Emma and Grace were getting tired. I made a passing comment to another mom about the difficulty of blending the play time needs of my older children with the sleep needs of my younger children. "I've never had to deal with that," the other mom said. (She only has two children, and they are close in age.) "I don't envy you." I realized as I walked off to gather my kids from their various activities that as difficult as it may be at times to juggle different kids' needs, I don't regret it. Sometimes it isn't easy to have lots of siblings. But it isn't my job to give my kids a life of comfort. Their lives will actually be better in the long run if I don't.
Sometimes as parents we want to give our children lives of ease. But in the process we may fail to give them precious life gifts of patience, resiliency, compassion, and awareness of others.
When one child gives up something they want to meet a sibling's need, they learn that other people's needs matter. They learn to give and to sacrifice. When a child has to wait their turn to receive help because I'm helping another child, they learn patience. When another child can help the first child who is waiting for help, they learn to love and serve. These are life's lessons when you grow up in a big family. They aren't easy. But hopefully on the road to developing patience, love, service, and sacrifice they learn one other critical life lesson: they can do hard things. Ahhh, now there's a lesson I really want them to master.
I can do hard things. My children can do hard things. That is a lesson that is worth learning.

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