Our boys are 2 and 5 and they are starting to play together. What I love is that they really get excited for all kinds of different adventures. Even, if it’s just heading into the backyard with a shovel in hand. Recently I was talking with my mom about the stage of parenting that we are currently entering.
When my sisters and I were young, my parents would regularly put us all in a van, with friends, and travel a few hundred miles south to Lake Cumberland, KY for some boating and recreation. It must have been a ton of work for my parents, who were both working full-time jobs. They had to coordinate with our schedules, communicate with our friends’ parents, grocery shop, pack suitcases and boxes of food, pack the van with 8 people and all weekend luggage and supplies, and drive 3-4 hours to get there.
Then while we were there, they had to clean the house and the boat, make sure we the proper life jackets and safety equipment on the boat. They had to make beds and cook all the meals, do all the dishes, repair the house as we did our usual wear and tear that only 6 kids can do. They paid for everything, gas, food, games, boat gear, activities in the car.
And this, my mom says was the best time of her life.
With the ability to reflect on a few years of my oldest son’s childhood, it is very clear to me why my mom feels this way. Children have the ability to bring immense joy into our lives. And while they require a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, nothing else is nearly rewarding.
My mother has had some significant adversity at various stages of her life, and this middle aged phase that she reflects on with such fondness was no different. She and my father worked their tail off and sacrificed a ton to give us children an absolutely tremendous, joyful, adventure filled childhood.
The hardest things, closest to your highest values in life, are the most rewarding. Parenthood offers this tremendous opportunity. 40 years later, I’m pretty confident that nothing else in this world brings my parents more joy than spending time with their children and their families.
Last night, my wife and I asked our oldest son what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner and gave him some ideas to get him thinking. Without hesitation he wanted to invite his grandparents over for a pizza dinner. So we called, and they came with joy and love.
Now that my sisters and I are a few decades into being adults, my parents can see the fruit come to bear from the seeds they planted in our lives. Now that some of us are parents ourselves, they are able to reminiscence about when they were in our shoes. They were working and sacrificing almost continuously to provide us as much joy and opportunity as they could.
It was selfless and hard, yet it was the best time of my mom’s life. It was filled with purpose and generosity. It was full of love and patience. They had all kinds of heavy responsibility and yet it was still the best time of their lives.
On my son’s 5th birthday, I spent the quiet morning before he woke and reflected on the last five years. And I feel the same way that my mom does. My son is high energy and at times strong willed, but he also brings me more joy than I ever could have dreamed. He challenges me, makes me grow, always finding a new way to test my authority. But he loves me tremendously and gives me the sweetest, and most tender moments filled with pure joy and innocence that only young children still possess.
He has renewed my ability to find joy in the simplest of blessing that life brings. Whether it is a silly dance song, a train, or a beautiful sunrise, he lights up with glee and it is absolutely infectious.
Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just like my parents, it is the best time of my life.