This was originally posted on February 18, 2009.
There are the obvious things that one loves about parenting: earning the trust of someone so vulnerable and yet discerning, getting a smile out of his pursed little lips, making him laugh, finding just the right combination of things that will soothe him when he’s reduced to tears, helping him reach a milestone in his growth and development like sitting up, having a purpose that’s real and true and good. To be honest, I expected those things to be the really fabulous things about parenting. But parenting has benefits that aren’t solely related to the baby in your arms— it pays dividends elsewhere, if you will. Here’s a list of observations I’ve made about those in the last couple of weeks:
1. It is grounding. I have a dramatic tendency to “make work”. It’s like I am PigPen from the Peanuts and there is a little Make Work cloud all around me– willing me to be as productive as possible as often as possible. And productive means producing. This make work tendency is a double-edged sword– a flaw and a strength. At any moment in my life, I know I can get what is before me done, but at every moment in my life, I am doing because time might run out, life might give out, there is just so much left to do. What I love about parenting is that it grounds me. It has made me relish the productivity in sitting and extending my two thumbs for my baby boy to grasp so that we can practice pulling up over and over and over again. Maybe he won’t be able to sit up because of that pull up today or even tomorrow. But there is a foundation being laid with every moment we spend with him. It doesn’t have to be productive as much as we have to be intentional. And being is a wonderful concept to become grounded in. The other part of the grounding force is that parenting and its urgency has allowed me to let other things– the things that don’t really matter but somehow alway made their way to my list to taunt me– just fall off my to do list. I am making less work so that I have room for the work of my life.
2. Mom Biceps. Seriously. Carrying around 17 pounds of something serious builds one’s biceps like you wouldn’t believe.
3. Being greener. I like trying to live as greenly as I can sustain on a daily basis but the desire to do that has become compounded now that there is this tiny little person in our house whose future on this Earth depends on the efforts I make right now.
4. We’re walking. I live in a walkable town and because of my tendency to make work, I often piddled that privilege away and worked up until two minutes before I needed to be somewhere then hopped in my car to get there on time. The way that we wrestle morning and afternoon naps out of baby is to walk him, and I just plan our errands along the way. We walk to the grocery store, the coffee shop, the bank, the post office, the insurance office. I log more miles walking Abram in a week than I ever did when I was running.
5. It nurtures community. Babies really do unite us– it is a wonderful thing to watch and be a part of and to graciously say yes to. One of my very favorite things is to ask someone if he/she wants to hold sweet baby A. His/her eyes light up, and when Abram settles into that person’s arms, his big dimpled grin on, it is a gift to watch the tranquility and joy that settles in.
6. It is a classroom. I love learning. Especially learning in a lab. And being a parent is being in a lab every second of every day. It is hard; it is a trial by fire; but when you get one little thing right, it is infinitely satisfying. What a gift.
7. It is centering. I have long known my purpose and passion but I have found my center and if I have to move away from it to work then I want the work to be work that I MUST do, not work that I happen to be able to do. That’s clarifying and while I know what I want my big projects of the next year or so to be, I also know that I can’t let the stuff that I used to take on because there was time or I didn”t want to say no get in the way. There’s clarity in the midst of the mountains of laundry, diapers, wipes, and the opportunity to love.