What is parenting?
Is it bearing? Bearing pregnancy. Bearing children. Bearing burdens. Bearing sorrows.
Is it raising? Raising children. Raising walls. Raising hands in praise. Raising standards. Raising blood pressure.
Is it preparing? Preparing food. Preparing homework. Preparing hearts. Preparing clothes for tomorrow.
Or is it standing?
We stand between them and hunger. Between them and loneliness. Between them and fear. Between them and the unknown. Between them and the future. Between them and expectations.
We train their hearts to interact with others, readying them to experience more light, sound, temperature, and relationships.
And slowly, day by day and year by year, we step out of the way. It’s an inching away, cautiously yet continuously. We constantly train, teach and prepare them for what is coming even as we shield them from the power of its impact, protecting them from what is too much for right now. We decide what gets past us, what must wait. We decide how far they can reach and what they can try, always gauging readiness for more...or not.
I’ve struggled with the idea that motherhood is the best thing I have to offer the world as many would have me believe. I don’t buy it. There’s too much else out there that needs doing for my time at home, caring for small people, to be the epitome of my life.
But this standing in the gap, blocking the bad and guiding toward the good? I can do that anywhere. With my family, I train, then I step out the door and keep doing the same thing, seeking the same purpose. In the world, it's not the same, based on obedience or loyalty, but draws on the habit of valuing the hearts that cross my path, standing in the way of things that would cause pain to others, choosing to leave people and situations better than when I found them. I am easily frustrated in both spheres, because it’s natural for us to assume we know best and want others to recognize it.
But through my own struggle with self-control and the constant demands of motherhood against my selfishness, I find myself better prepared to walk in the world. The value of my job is not just in presenting the world with well-developed little people, but with a better-developed me.