This past weekend, we spent a good deal of time with several young families, and I had the opportunity to see veteran parents – mamas of four or five kids – in action. As I cradled my own sleeping infant against my chest, I watched in awe as they handled sibling spats and tired kids and complete chaos with ease, shepherding older children while still tending to the needs of their babies. They were natural and calm, confident in their roles, gracefully handling situations that left me wondering if I was really cut out for this whole parenting thing.
I talked about it afterwards with Jonathan, about how I don’t really have a clue what I am doing, about how parenting – the responsibility of it, the weight of it, the potential of it – scares me. I am being trusted to help shape and mold this young life (and possibly, hopefully, more young lives in the future), but so much of my own personality still needs shaping and molding. I don’t know how to do this thing, how to teach this girl to love and respect others, how to help her learn what it is to be a responsible and kind human being, how to point her toward God in a way that is meaningful and true.
He listened, nodded, agreed. The responsibility is intimidating. We have so much to learn. We will certainly mess things up along the way. But then, he asked a question.
“Don’t you think, though, that those other parents felt this way at one point, too? Don’t we just need to take it one day at a time?”
He’s right, of course, as he usually is. One day at a time, or, if necessary, one moment at a time. Which is a principle that applies to all of life, really, and not just parenting. I do not know what the future holds, and I do not know what I will need to face it, but I do know the tasks I’ve been given to do today, right now, in this moment, and so my job is to focus on those things and to let tomorrow worry about itself. Easier said than done? Yes. But worth pursuing, nonetheless.
I don’t know how to parent a teenager, or an eight-year-old, or even a one-year-old. I don’t know how to parent two (or three or four or five) children at the same time. But, with generous doses of prayer and love and common sense and a strict avoidance of the Internet, I do know how to nurture and cherish and care for this sweet two-month-old baby in my arms (despite occasional bouts of self-doubt), and for now, that is enough. I know what I am supposed to do today. Tomorrow can wait.