At 38 weeks pregnant, Jenn eagerly awaited the birth of her first child. Her pregnancy had gone well and she looked forward to what lay ahead as she arrived for her routine doctor exam. With little warning, and a racing heart, she was ushered to a nearby hospital for a more extensive ultrasound. The doctor said the baby appeared to have quit growing and needed to be examined further. After several tests, Jenn learned the baby girl she had carried for nine months would arrive with heart complications that would affect her for the rest of her life.
Upon admittance to the hospital for delivery to begin, Jenn was understandably beyond anxious, but she wasn’t prepared for the emotions she experienced when the baby arrived. Regardless of the challenges she knew were ahead, she felt an unconditional love that far surpassed any of her expectations. Within the next few years, Jenn and her husband welcomed two more children. And all were — not surprisingly — embraced with an immense love.
Parents so often take the privilege of parenthood for granted, instead of a role to be cherished. (Yes, no one can possibly cherish every moment. Certainly there are many non-magical moments during parenthood.) It’s easy to overlook the important role we play, but the influence we have as parents can’t be denied. We teach, we nurture, we counsel, we discipline, we taxi, we solve problems, we ease drama, we nurse wounds, and more. While the preschool years have days that never end, the teenage years have days that take flight. Before we’re ready, our babies begin to drive, graduate from high school, start college, and venture out on their own.
Time runs out for those positive parenting moments we intended to have. The daily influences we take for granted to mold our children change to parenting snapshots via text messaging, late-night conversations, and crisis intervention.
Parenthood provides meaning to life we wouldn’t otherwise experience. Although not easy, life without children wouldn’t be the same. The lessons we learn while raising children aren’t taught in school: how to make it through a long day after enduring a colicky baby all night, how to rid your child of lice without setting her hair on fire, how to stay calm when the school administrator reports your teenager has skipped school, or how to alleviate the intense fear of your new driver getting in an accident. As our kids grow older, we learn how to let go when our 18-year-old leaves for college and how to move on when our young adult announces wedding plans.
Parents offer unending selflessness with little guarantee of what lies ahead. We endure heartache and disappointment; we celebrate victories and accomplishments. We refuse to give up when our child goes astray, or turn our back when our child rebels.
Parenthood never truly ends. Whether your parent lives next door or out-of-state, she’s always a phone call away. When my job ended in my young adult years, my mom was the first to know. When my children were born, she celebrated with me. When I endured a difficult divorce, she walked with me. When I struggled as a single parent, she encouraged me. When I celebrated marriage again with a new family, she congratulated me.
Now, as my parents approach their sunset years, I seek to be there for them. Our roles have reversed as I watch the effects of Alzheimer’s grip my mother’s failing mind, and I take over the driver’s seat to help my dad with errands. The caretaker role goes full circle: sacrificial love and devotion without end.
My friend, Jenn, cherishes the joy of raising three babies. All of her children are loved immeasurably and she genuinely has an unending appreciation for a role she’ll never take for granted. Plan for the future, while simultaneously living in the moment as you celebrate your extraordinary role. Affirm your value and commit to be a positive influence as you guide and nurture your children. No one else can play the role only you have been granted.
Gayla Grace is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mom to five children. She considers it a privilege to be called mom.
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