The parking space was available, and mine to take. But as I glanced behind me into the emptiness I realised the space was in fact no longer mine.There were no small people seated behind me. Really, when I thought about it, the journey had seemed deafeningly quiet; there was no pointing out of tractors, or cranes, or mixers. No halting of the car to referee a fight. No attempts to pick up dropped hot-wheels cars whilst trying not to crash the car. So really, it should have dawned on me before this moment that I was child-free and on. my. own. But only as I pulled up the handbrake did it register that the space was no longer mine to take. On auto-pilot I’d parked in a mother and baby parking space. But for the first time in seven years I wasn’t entitled to use it.
The space belonged to someone else.
My handbag, though still cluttered with inky pens, sweet wrappers and loose change, is no longer stuffed with nappies and wipes and nappy sacks. At home there are no stair gates, no high chairs, no buggies, no cots, and a whole lot less snot. My clothes often look as clean at the end of the day as they did at the start. Which is almost miraculous. Whole nights of sleep are taken for granted.
The season is shifting.
And in that moment in the car park I didn’t know whether to leap with joy or collapse in a heap of tears.
The season is shifting.
Seven years ago, with newborn in our arms, clueless, fresh faced and full of hope and naivety we began our parenting journey. And we are no longer those people.
Obviously we still have kids,and they’re still quite young. But many of the foundations have been laid. This has been the season of foundation-laying. There have been many times when we’ve laid a foundation and had to dig it up again because we realised it wasn’t quite right. Sometimes we’ve needed to dig deeper before we could build taller. Sometimes we’ve needed to stop and remember who it is that we build upon, who our ultimate foundation is. But this has been the season of working out how we respond to temper tantrums or whining, how we love our kids with both encouragement and challenge, how our kids relate to each other, to other kids, to authority figures, to God.
And it’s also been a season of foundation-laying for us not only as parents, but also as people and as followers of Jesus. It’s impossible to remain unchanged when you have a pair of completely dependent lungs bawling at you through the long night hours. There’s a work of sanctification that takes place when you’re pushed beyond your own natural capacity.
And a work of authenticity. Because our kids can’t win the ground that we haven’t already taken – not yet anyhow. So we’ve been challenged first to think about how we relate to God when we’ve considered how we want our kids to relate to Him. And then we’ve tried to live and walk that way. When we’ve considered the rhythms and routines we want our kids to walk in, we’ve had to walk in them ourselves first. When we’ve thought about how we want our kids to love others we’ve tried to model that to them. And when we’ve wanted them to see for themselves what it looks like to ask for forgiveness, and to say sorry we’ve had to be the first to do that. We’ve done it all imperfectly. But that’s ok, because integrity is not the same as perfection.
It always seems easier to just tell our kids what to do or how to act or behave. But our kids need more than just words to follow, they need lives to imitate. They need parents, and role-models, who walk hand-in-hand with the Father and will share that relationship and journey with them.
Our journey continues.