It had been a great morning . . . right up until five minutes before the school bus arrived. That was when things completely fell apart. One daughter suddenly had to go to the bathroom, the other copped a major brat-itude and called me a “Meanie!” Meanwhile, their school shoes were nowhere to be found and neither daughter was listening to anything I was saying.
As the screech of bus brakes signaled its arrival, we barreled outside in full-on sprint mode—me still in my pajamas, carrying my girls’ hastily grabbed snow boots so they could put them on en route to school, with my two sock-footed daughters running frantically behind.
It looked very funny on the outside (my neighbors still tease me about it), but I felt profoundly frustrated on the inside.
No matter what I do, they don’t appreciate me, I thought. No matter how hard I try, things still blow up. Parenting—in that moment—had left me deeply discouraged. It had taken only five minutes for me to reach the very end of my rope.
How is it that normal childhood misbehavior had thrown me so off-kilter?
I think it was because I’d inadvertently slipped into a tempting mindset: I was looking to my children—to my role as Mom—to provide me meaning and satisfaction. So when I got a “You Meanie!” rather than a “Thanks for all you do, Mom,” my sense of value plummeted.
Being a parent is certainly an amazing and precious gift—but it is not a fairy wonderland of bliss. For all its joys, wonders, and intimacies, parenting will inevitably leave us discouraged, empty, and grasping if we seek our soul-satisfaction there.1