When my son was an infant we did not live near extended family. They were all in California, with two outliers in Oregon. We lived in Alaska, having been whisked there five years prior by my husband’s company the day after we said, “I do!” With Craig being the only grandchild on one side of the family, and only one of two on the other side, we received requests to provide many videos of our whopping five-pound guy. We then received complaints that they were a bit dull and the baby didn’t do anything. It kind of made me wonder how they had never noticed when my husband and I were babies that we didn’t do anything either. Perhaps the memory had faded with time. Nevertheless, we kept up the videos. We left off the long crying spells, the colic, and the inability to be comforted. We left off the anxiety as milestones came along just a bit later than expected. Not enough to cause complete alarm, but just enough to make you go, “Hmmmm.”
This past Thanksgiving I visited my mother and she surprised me with a DVD that condensed all of those videos sent over the early years of Craig’s life. Our family of three settled in around the fireplace to share those memories recorded decades earlier and long forgotten. First baths, first smiles, cuddles in the rocking chair gave way eventually to tottering steps holding his daddy’s index fingers like handlebars. Watching his first haircut, I am amazed that Craig still has both of his ears after seeing him whip his head around trying to see what I was doing with those scissors. I especially enjoyed the clips of me chasing him through the house, complete with Mark’s camera commentary and Craig’s shrieks of laughter encouraging me to ever higher levels of ridiculousness. Parents will make complete fools of themselves for their children! I collapsed on the couch, telling Mark, “I think it’s time to stop. He seems tired.” To which he replied, “I think mommy is the one who seems tired!” He was right, and has video evidence to prove it!
I think that is what I recall most from those days, being tired, being a busy working mom, being a bit anxious about Craig’s development. As a first time parent I had no point of reference. Every child cries and cannot be comforted, every child can be picky about food, every child can be hard to put to bed, but … As years went on diagnoses came. First, ADHD. Then OCD. Then dysgraphia. Then anxiety. Then Tourette’s. Then Asperger’s. My focus became therapy and medication and behavior plans. Well, my focus was Craig, but also a whole lot of new things that became part of the world of helping Craig to be the best Craig he could be.
Somehow, in the midst of the intervening years those are the memories that crowd to the front. Toss in some vivid memories of “proud moments in parenting” when I was not as patient as I should have been and I realize I forgot something very important at the heart of it all. I forgot about how truly, deeply, madly I love that baby boy who has grown into a young man of whom I am so proud.
Of course, I know I love my child. He is part of who I am, even as he is separate and autonomous. Yet, those videos brought home for me the underlying purpose of parenting. Deep love. It is so much a part of my everyday life that somehow deep love faded into the background of daily recognition. In the shrieks and giggles and racing legs clad in fleece-footed jammies, I glimpsed it. I even glimpsed it in those “boring” videos of us sleeping on the couch and rocking in the chair. I think that is why we recorded so much of those times. It wasn’t that they were exciting to watch, but that they were steeped in a new found deep love and wonder for the tiny person who was, and is, the biggest part of our lives.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth at a time when they had forgotten a bit about who they were and why they were a church, a gathering of people representing Christ to the world. He wrote for many chapters offering guidance, suggestions, and the occasion admonishment. Finally, in chapter thirteen he spelled it out plainly. The Christian walk is all about love. He reminded them that love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. He concluded that chapter, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13 NRS).
Faith, hope and love. Those are the definitive guides to parenting. Faith in God for guidance and direction as we shepherd our children through life, raising them up to their potential, whatever that may be. Hope for a future that we cannot see, one that can be wrapped with anxiety and worry if we allow ourselves to be isolated from hope. Love, the greatest of these, prompts us to sleep on the floor next to a crib, go one more round with the insurance provider to advocate for our child’s needs, or simply make funny sounds to see a little face light up with joy. Of course we do those things and many more! We are made in the image of God and God’s character is defined by love for all people and all of creation. That deep love we feel for our child is but a dim reflection of the love that God feels for us, for our children, and for our families, whatever size and shape they may be. God’s love is always there, even when we forget to notice. I wonder. When we get to heaven will God show us a shaky home video of our lives, reminding us of all the times and all of the ways that we were loved by God as we grew as Christians and reached up to our potential as followers of Christ?
Faith, hope and love. We need all three as parents; and the greatest of these is love.