I've been asked if things have gotten easier as the kids have outgrown their bottles and diapers and all I can do is look into their eyes and shake my head vigorously and whisper a quiet, wide-eyed, "No". Parenting has become less all-life encompassing as the kids have gotten older, but in no way would I ever use the word "easier" to define this stage of parenting. There are moments that are filled with laughter, excitement, and joy, just as when they were younger...and then there are those moments...which sometimes seems to stretch on forever.
It seems each stage has its own set of struggles, which tend to bring out the ugliest parts of me. These are the moments where I have to keep reminding myself of the bigger picture:
What is it that I am trying to do here as a parent? Am I trying to produce a good, law-abiding citizen by forcing my own rules and regulations or am I creating an environment where my child can learn (albeit sometimes the hard way) that there is an important purpose behind laws and rules?
Am I modeling angry outbursts and/or the silent treatment, or am I prayerfully listening through the conflict, allowing the space for my child to process and learn to engage in a healthy way?
The other day I heard parenting teenagers is like watching them on a rollercoaster and being there to wave at them as they pass by. I laughed and realized that this might be the best description of what it's like to parent teenagers. Parenting is hard. There's no way around it. My kids are going to say really mean things to me, hurt my feelings, and make really stupid choices. I cannot control that. What I can control is how I respond, have grace for myself when I know I could have responded better, continue to remind my kids how much I love them, wave with all my might as they pass by me on that rollercoaster, and pray like all of our survival depends on it...because the reality is, sometimes those prayers are all that is keeping us alive.