by Erin Weist
Parenting is hard. Anyone who disagrees has probably never been a parent. But it is beautiful and worthwhile and honorable and gut-wrenchingly fulfilling at the same time. Let me explain with an example. This has been a tough week in our house, parenting-wise. I have found myself repeatedly at odds with one child or another, I have spent an inordinate amount of time intervening in fights, I have sent children to their rooms to cool off again & again & again. I thought everyone was going crazy, while I was the one going craziest.
Then, in moments of quiet reflection (usually when everyone was either gone or asleep) I started thinking about my part in the craziness. I realized that when my goal was oriented toward accomplishing tasks (cleaning rooms, doing laundry, playing referee during fights, finishing schoolwork) something always tended to happen to throw a wrench in things and stall or negate finishing that task. Someone won’t communicate to solve a problem, someone else won’t help clean, someone else won’t sort laundry, someone else won’t work on their math, someone else takes off their diaper and throws it around the room…kids make choices just like we do and it throws a wrench in trying to accomplish tasks. But the revelation came to me that ultimately the tasks were not my goal. People will always be hungry again, the house will just get messy again, clothes will always need cleaning, beds will always need to be made again, life will just keep on going.
My ultimate goal, really, is to love them. Love them from the top of my head to the bottom of my soles and back again. Fill my life, and theirs, with love. And the final revelation came, how to make that happen: love by serving.
Christianity has taught me to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and what He did in our recorded scriptures, was to serve. Every day. Everywhere He went. Everyone He interacted with was given something to bless their life. Sometimes it was a miracle. Sometimes it was personal forgiveness (which, in itself can be a miracle), sometimes it was a call to repentance. In other words, His constant focus was on the needs of others.
I tell my kids quite often that the conflicts that arise between them stem from someone putting their own needs first and not considering someone else’s needs. And once again, that gut-wrenching fulfillment of parenting set in when I realized I had been a hypocrite. I had put my own needs, my own tasks, first, ahead of the needs of my kids. But the beautiful part was knowing I could change. So I spent a few days looking for individual ways to serve my kids instead of looking to just get things done. This involved priceless one-on-one time with my precious ones: reading, playing games, talking, listening, running backyard races, wiping tears. I don’t know how it’s so easy to forget to serve them, but they are infinitely more important than to-do lists, so I pray parents around the world can take a few minutes to serve.
Serve your kids. Serve your spouse. Do things that put their needs first. These are eternal principles with wonderful results. I want my kids to make choices that will bring them joy– and I’m going to start setting the example with love by service.