Before You Paint Your Guest Room Pink: A Pre-Parenting Weekend Retreat For The "Some Day"ers

Here we are: three and a half years into marriage. I suppose it's natural to start "wondering" about the "possibility" of a "time" when we "might" want to "approach" the "threshold" of parenthood. Notice the tiptoeing vocabulary. It's currently hiding behind a boulder a hundred miles away from the trailhead of Decision (not my favorite hike). So let me say emphatically--in case someone mistakes my tiptoeing vocabulary for a comments plea and bombards me with due date and sex questions--there is no firm thought here, much less decision, about the when. Only lot's of questions about life with kids at some point in the future.

The fact that we're three years married isn't the only reason I've been pondering the selfless life. It probably has more to do with the awkward position J and I are in, lodged between two very different people groups: single friends and young parents friends. We hardly have any just-married friends. It can be a difficult adjustment, but then again, transition is what defines the twentysomething decade. And overall, I appreciate the diversity and the perspective it gives me. I like living vicariously through single friends, and I like learning the ups and downs of parenthood before I consider the fun of shooting a squalling baby into my husband's arms.

Every time I spend time with kids or hear about the joys and frustrations they bring their parents, I walk away with questions. I like to think I've always maintained a realistic perspective of what parenting requires . . . which is why I'm more hesitant than eager to jump in. Once you're in, you're in--there's no going back. You can't do all the same things you used to do, you can't maintain the same schedule you had before, and suddenly life isn't just about you and your spouse's needs anymore. But I always thought that the joys outweighed the sighs. Recently, the majority of what I've heard about the experience is negative, both from parents who planned their pregnancies and those who didn't. It's bothered me.

This weekend J and I took a quick trip to Reno for our friend's two year old's birthday party. I've never been to a party with so many kids--yelling, toddling, laughing, crying kids, all racing through the house or shmeering chalk on furniture or laughing contagiously. The next day we met up with some friends who have a fifteen month old. He skilfully consumed freeze-dried yogurt snacks and a granola bar and a jar of veggies and a jar of fruit and milk, all before we even got our meal, all the while using sign language to communicate what he wanted next. Then we carried him around the nation's biggest Scheel's, showing him the stuffed wildlife and watching his eyes widen with excitement.

I'm still not sure what to think of myself as a parent. Questions push out the nearness of possibility, but then again, questions won't ever let up--even after births and terrible twos and torrential teens and empty nesting have come and gone. But this weekend did offer one answer for me: it's important to have a support network around you when you do decide to give God the chance to bless you with a child. When I was at the birthday party, I was amazed by how relaxed all the parents seemed. I don't know what they're like at home, alone with the kids, after a stressful day. But at the party, gathered under one roof with a house full of longtime friends who were going through the same things, they were calm. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. They could compare notes on weight and teeth and sleeping habits. They could nod understandingly about "MINE!" whines when other toddler's screamed "NO!" But most importantly, they could share the miracle of God the father's love for us, his greedy and stubborn kids who somehow still make him smile and his heart swell with joy.

Of course not all parents go through the same thing at the same time, and different factors come into play. But it seems to me that what's true for our life in entirety is true for parenting as well: without each other we'd just try to survive; with each other we can have fun and enjoy the ride.


Ang said...

Definitely true. I've never made friends so quickly. New mums flock to one another and that's a good thing. This from an introvert!

And for the record, I'm exhausted, frustrated, worn out, etc but Nate is the single greatest blessing God's ever given us and there were days when I was all of those things before he came...I'd never go back.

Amy said...

i'm so happy you're happy as a parent! and to know that the exhaustion is worth it gives me hope for the day we decide to start our own family.

hope you like being a mum in london. have you ventured the tube with your pram yet?

joanna said...

wait... you're pregnant???



Jen Mc. said...

I know I'm jumping in ridiculously late on this one- not sure how I missed it the first time and the heading intrigued me. :)
When I read "the selfless life", I began to contemplate the sacrifice. It is not that parenting knocks the narcissism out of us, but it gives enough structure to start heading that direction- which, of course, is a good thing based on our realities in Christ (Gal. 2:19,20).
Have you ever considered taking a job at the new IHOP in town just to learn how to actually serve people? (No, you say?). Parenting takes care of that urge- but the service/sacrifice is rather null & void when we see that the trade-off is much, much higher than a minimum wage job with free pancake perks.
Nobody tips you when you're a mom.
But you're in love.
And it's the real thing.

Amy Kopecky said...

mmm. good thoughts jen. i think it's true (ironically) that we can raise "service" to a narcissistic level and idolize our sacrificial acts. the other danger is that if we always view parenting as a sacrifice, it will begin to resemble a chore and we will resent it. unfortunately i think i've seen this attitude played out in real life. i wish all moms and dads had your perspective on the gift that is parenting.

p.s. i haven't served at IHOP, but i have served at the equivalent in Seward, NE (next time you're in Nebraska on I-80, take the Seward exit and stop by the Cafe on the Square!)