My posts about parenting are often prompted by realisations of failure. The times when I am not the parent that I wish I could be. Parenting is a vast and marvellous task that stretches us in every direction. My heart is not big enough, my brain is not flexible enough, my frame cannot bear enough, my pride cannot be broken enough to make me a great parent.
I am learning the disappointment of not being a better parent than my own. I had such naive hopes of transcendence.
I'll take a turn here because I want to reflect differently today.
On Monday, a workmate proudly showed me a photo of his newborn son. This baby, born to two loving couples, has been carefully planned, and looked forward to by four eager hearts. He will be raised in two houses - two mothers in one, two fathers in the other. I don't mention this to comment on homosexual couples parenting. This issue can be divisive and I'm not here to express rightness or wrongness, blessing or cursing. I have seen the questioning eyebrows as the news passes, and that is enough comment on such things, for me.
We share a bond, this workmate and I. On his face was the naked pride of child-bearing, the passion of loving a newborn, the excitement of a tiny helpless hand hidden in his own. He knows what I know.
Parenting is a baptism. A washing in amniotic fluid and blood, which signals a turn from self-focus to care of another. It is not alone in this call. Many other things can cause this repentence. But parenthood is an obvious, often-idolised transition from self. For some it costs everything. For some I know, they would pay all they have, but that is not enough. The inability to bear a child becomes itself the painful baptism.
For some, parenting comes in such an unplanned fashion, that it cripples the ability to wonder at it and to relish it. What a blessing that parenting is not done in an instant, but gives us time to learn and discover as we do it. To become the parents that can love well.
My friend showed me the absolute delight of loving a child. He showed me what an integral human longing we share - to love a child, to build into a person as they emerge in the journey from birth. This is where parenting becomes transcendent - not in me being 'better' than my mum, but in me knowing a portion of God's parent-heart.
This is his delight - to love us.
This is his longing - to build into us as we emerge.
My prayer is to know more of it in my family.