Jonathan and I sat together on the couch a few nights back, paging through the photo book I had compiled for our family for 2019. He paused to smile at a shot of Abby giving a lopsided grin to the camera, and then at Miles sacked out in my arms.
When he got to his page – the one featuring pictures of him with the kids – he looked over at me.
“This makes me look like a better parent than I actually am,” he said.
After a beat, he added, “But then, I guess that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
If you were to judge our lives based solely on the photo books I compile, on the images and posts I share publicly, even on the stories I share with friends and family, you would get an incomplete picture at best.
Looking through the photos from last year, it’s easy to forget the messes. The tantrums. The moments of absolute and utter failure.
The pictures don’t show the times I yelled. They don’t show the tears (theirs, or mine). They don’t show the clenched fists or the battles of the will or the time-outs.
This is by design.
Such things are a part of our real life, of course, but nobody wants their dirty laundry aired for all the world to see. Nobody wants a record of their misdeeds, a chronicle of their bad behavior.
We don’t want to remember such things, to dwell on them. We want – we need – the grace to move on, to leave it in the past.
There’s more to it than that, though.
The sermon Sunday was on Psalm 42. Mike talked about the way the psalmist responded to a period of great confusion in his life, how he acknowledged his feelings, but then turned his gaze toward the things he knew to be true about God.
I’ve been thinking about this idea all week, the idea of owning my feelings, but not dwelling on them, of holding my emotions up to the truth.
This is truth: being a parent of small humans is hard.
I find I often lose myself in the ordinary mundane, in the daily difficulties. In the midst of the challenges, it can start to feel as though my life is one tedious chore after another, a never-ending series of meaningless messes and tantrums and battles.
But this is also truth: even on my worst days (perhaps more often on my worst days), I can find grace, and love, and joy. I can be reminded that these relationships, these people, are worth the time and the effort and the difficulty.
Some days, I need to hold the emotions generated by the first truth – that parenting is hard – up to that second truth – that this work is worthwhile, that there is beauty, even here.
Some days, I need to turn my gaze toward the good, and the beautiful, and the wonderful in my right-here, right-now life.
We reached the last page and closed the book.
“We have a good life,” he said.
It’s true. We do.