In 2005, our sweet little Drew was born and I became a parent. I had read up, geared up, and psyched up for this task before me, and it all seemed to work. He slept through the night at 5 weeks. He ate like a champ, was rarely fussy, and grew into a compliant and happy toddler. Parenting him made me feel like Mary Poppins: I was fun but firm, singing my way through parenthood, confident and cool.
And then came Isaac.
Isaac's first tantrum came at 8 months. Practically from birth, he was determined to have whatever was on his mind. He crawled at 6 months, walked at 10, and began climbing somewhere in between. At 9 months I found him sitting in the middle of the dining room table. Gone were the days of Mary Poppins; here were the days of feeling like the mom of Dennis the Menace. This little guy was mostly good-natured, always ornery, but so endearing in the process that I couldn't help but shake my head and try to keep up- and keeping up was a full-time job. Isaac wasn't necessarily defiant; just busy and determined to be on the go and into everything.
And then came Ella.
Parenting this little girl is a whole new ball game. At two years old, she is clever, sweet, and so strong-willed that it can be intimidating. Yesterday in a nap time stand off that lasted almost 2 hours, she looked me straight in the eye and yelled, "I WANNA NEW HOUSE! NOT YOU!" As I sat fighting tears on a tote in the hallway outside her room, it occurred to me that the task of parenting this child makes me feel like Frodo attempting to carry the ring to Mount Doom. I hear Cate Blanchett's voice in my mind, "This task has been given to you..." and I feel the reality that I just don't really know if I am up to it. But still, it is too important to not just keep going, and hope by the grace of God that she mellows or I buck up or we meet somewhere in between. She humbles me. Trying to be her mom every day, trying to help soften her heart and train her in obedience, is a constant lesson in depending on Christ and just hanging in there.
And then came baby #4.
What will she be like? Perhaps she will return me to my Mary Poppins-like state. Possibly she will have a whole new spin on the task of growing up. Or maybe she'll make trying to wrangle Ella look like a walk in the park. I console myself with the truth that either way, there will be plenty of grace for us both. And it's good to remember that in this schizophrenic journey of parenting, God is using all of my children to shape me in different ways, ultimately to make me more like Him.
So bring it on, little lady #4. We are anxious for your story to begin.
That's my take on parenthood: each a surprise. Characters welcome.