A cool breeze rustled through the pines- a welcome break from the furnace of Phoenix. We were at a quaint hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a weekend away. All I wanted to do was feed my hungry, little man cubs and get on the road to our next adventure.
But first, coffee.
As my cup went from empty to full, I breathed in generic coffee, and for a hot second pretended I wasn’t trying to wrangle three little bulls in a tiny hotel china cabinet with free pancakes and syrup overflowing. I could almost taste my vacation from my “vacation” in a cup, when I was stopped by a stranger and brought back to reality.
“Your kids seem really great.”
Surely, I needed to take my first sip of coffee because I didn’t hear her right.
My kids? The ones jumping around like rabid monkeys and screaming for more orange juice?
“They are so well behaved.”
Wait. She was complimenting my children; bed-headed and zestful as they were.“Thank you!” I quickly responded. “They have a lot of energy!” I said, gulping down my hot coffee.
“Oh sure, they’re kids. They’re supposed to have energy. But they listen to you and respond so well. They really are good boys.”
And that was it. My heart melted into a puddle on the floor.
It took a stranger to see in my own children what I couldn’t in that moment. We only had a few days in the cooler weather and slower pace, but I chose to spend our trip scrambling. Scrambling to get them to calm down AND be quiet AND not disturb anyone AND sit still in their chairs AND follow mom and dad exactly AND NOT SCREW ANYTHING UP.
Sometimes, I become so wrapped up in teaching them how to be humans that other people will enjoy, that I forget to enjoy these precious humans myself. You would think enjoying them would come naturally, since they are my own flesh and blood. But often, I’m so consumed with training and teaching, I forget I can actually delight in them too.
Even more than noticing how well my boys behave, this lady acknowledged my hard work.
No, I’m not completely in control of my boys’ behavior (good or bad), and my worth doesn’t depend on it- Praise God.
But you guys, parenting is hard.
I do my best to be very intentional every step of the way, and often, it feels in vain. Most nights, I sit my weary self down, put my feet up on the table, and wonder if it was even worth it. Was it worth the continual redirection, consistent consequences, non-stop encouragement, persistent prayers? When the first fit is thrown at 7:00am, it seems as though my efforts have turned up void.
But this woman stopped me and told me I was doing something right.
I don’t usually rely on the validation of strangers, especially when it comes to my job as a parent. Hell, if I gave any weight to the opinions of strangers, I would have given up on life and escaped to Mexico years ago- see my earlier post here. But this stranger’s words were what I needed that day to help shift my perspective.
They brought the reminder of a trusted friend’s words- “our children are image bearers of God, and we need to treat them that way.”
In what ways do you need a fresh perspective today?
We can get so lost in our intentions that our blessings begin to feel like burdens. Sometimes we need to take a step back in order to see our lives more accurately. Sometimes that nudge can even come from a stranger.
I walked back to our table, same coffee in hand, but with a new set of eyes to see my little image bearers more clearly.
I gently ran my fingers through my son’s tousled, dirty-blonde hair and took in a deep breath. As I exhaled, I simultaneously let go and allowed myself to enjoy these sweet gifts I’ve been given.