I’m slowly realizing that one of the most challenging parts of parenting is that it’s incredibly difficult to predict or gauge progress.
I’m so eager to know what I’m doing, the energy that I’m putting into my daughter, is being directed toward a purpose. Perhaps this comes from years of being a student, where hours of reading and writing usually directly translate into better grades, admittance into higher education programs, or awards and grants. I am addicted to progress, but I’m realizing that it’s a worldly ideal that can often be crippling in its hegemonic and normalizing ways.
That led me to thinking the other night, what if we threw progress and developmental markers and perfect sleep to the wind as parents and focused on loving the children in front of us? I remember when I was awaiting this baby my spiritual director told me that children first and foremost need love, and I remember feeling empowered, thinking, now that I can do.
But love isn’t always easy.
There are a million human ways we complicate and condition and crowd out love. Suddenly love begins to look and feel more like precision, weight, or caution, because we’ve replaced it with our own ideals, our desires, or our own assuming needs.
But true love is life altering in that it demands a total shift in the way we view and live life. We must change if we are to love graciously and selflessly rather than greedily and humanly.
This is why, I think, with parenting the “progress” is always paradoxically barely perceptible and earth-shattering. We find that simultaneously across the long nights and endless crying, both nothing and everything has shifted. We realize that despite our being wedded to a hegemonic view of progress, change and growth took their meandering course.
Not surprisingly, no amount of sheer human will and determination moves our children to progress, but rather the painstaking effort of love nurtures their being. Our children rely so perfectly on us, but we come only by struggle to rely on God. And yet the release of our lives to God is simply the greatest source of change imaginable.
No longer searching or bound by our desire for progress, we are released into grace and love. We are able to love because God first loved us. And when we live with the knowledge of that fact, we find joy and contentment in the children that we have, not merely the people that they are becoming.