I’m currently writing this while sitting at a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon, and there is a table of three very chatty, obnoxious, silly, giggly 12-year-old girls directly hovering over cinnamon rolls and muffins directly in my line of sight.
One of them – the slender redhead with clear blue eyes – is my oldest daughter. The other two, her friends, will be coming over later for a sleepover that I’m sure will be much of the same behavior.
As I peer over toward them from time to time (trying to remain undetected), I can’t help but think quickly through a play-by-play of my daughter’s life, starting with our first introduction to her in the hospital: sleeping in my arms, the tiniest, most vulnerable thing. And I remember thinking, “Does life get any better than this?”
Fast forward not too many weeks: middle of the night, trying my best to change a diaper in less-than-optimal lighting, taking on a less-than-optimal aroma as she fights through her cries and tears because all she really wants to do is go back to sleep. And I remember thinking, “Doesn’t life get better than this?”
And then there’s the memory of coming alongside her as she served a Thanksgiving dinner to the visitors of our community’s homeless shelter: watching her smile and bright blue eyes brighten the day for some folks who desperately need a bright day. And I thought, “Man, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”
Of course, growing up is hard and learning lessons can be even harder. Like the time I caught her in a lie about what she was looking at on her cell phone: That was a tough discussion, and my heart and my brain were at odds with what exactly to do. Tough love won out in the end and she was grounded from her phone for a time as well as from attending the big school rivalry football game the next night. She went to bed distraught and in tears; I went to bed with my own tears, thinking, “Surely life is going to get better than this.”
And back to today: I look on that blue-eyed redhead as she talks and laughs with her friends (still trying not to be detected), seeing the joy on her face, and I think, “Wow – I don’t think life can get better than this.”
A friend of a friend of mine was once asked what parenthood was like for him, and I think his response is the best description I’ve ever heard: “It’s just… more.” It’s more ups. It’s more downs. It’s more joys, more tears. More money spent, more stuff on the floor, more to plan for birthdays and holidays and weekends and vacations. More laughter, more struggles, more trying to just figure things out, more seeing great things happen despite us. More pride as a parent, more hard lessons learned, more hope for the future.
If you are a parent and you’re in one of these (or other) phases of “more,” know that you’re not alone. All us parents are in the “more,” but one thing is for certain – when life as a parent doesn’t seem like it could be much better, days are still to come when life just can’t get any better.
Take notice of the times when you see your kids showing signs of growth. This is hard for a parent sometimes because a part of us doesn’t want to see our kids grow up. You have to intentionally experience joy when we see the little milestones of maturity – like when they’re enjoying time with friends at a coffee shop over cinnamon rolls. It means they’re one more step closer to being the adults we are working so hard for them to become.
Life is good in the “more” – even when more is a lot more than we thought it would be. As a matter of fact, it can’t get any better – until maybe tomorrow.