We’re at the tail end of a vacation in Hawaii. We pooled together a year’s worth of frequent flier miles and were fortunate enough to stay in the ocean side condo of a family friend. We’ve had an amazing 7 days of rest and relaxation, swimming and dinners on the front lawn watching the sunset.
But no matter the escape, vacation is also real life too. And real life means someone has an earache on day 4 and so we take 2 busses into town and end up walking for a mile trying to find medicine. Its hot, the kids are complaining, the earache is pounding. It’s still real life…even on vacation. I stopped an older gentleman riding a cruiser bike with nothing but shorts on and asked directions. His long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail. He pointed us to where we needed to go and his eyes were full of kindness. I asked him, “How long you been in Maui?” because anyone that visits like me always has a piece within ourselves asking, ‘could I stay forever?’And then from the seat of his cruiser he tells me his story. “The wife and I came 45 years ago, she’s passed on now. The kids are all scattered from New Mexico and other places. Enjoy it while you can- before you know it the kids will be all gone and will move away. It goes fast.” His face was kind and understanding, sad from the distance from his own kids.Later at Cheeseburgers in Paradise in Lahaina, Heather makes this startling revelation. If we go on a vacation every few years, we’ll only take 4 more before Avery goes to college.” I feel my heart swell into my throat and it gets hard to breathe. Really? 4 more vacations? That seems impossible that time is moving this fast. That my little girl is now a few weeks from 9, halfway done with living under my roof before ending high school. I have this haunting thought sit in my mind for a minute: we’re halfway done parenting her in our home. Have we done a good job? Have we done enough? For most of us parents, most days we don’t think we’ve done a very good job.
Maybe parenting is full of so many questions is because we take too much credit upon ourselves. I know this is true for me, I worry about my own actions all the time. But then I open the Psalms, and the very first Psalm has this promise:
“How blessed is the man who does not
walk in the counsel of the wick, (choose wisely whom you listen to)
Nor stand in the path of sinners, (keep your choices clean)
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (don’t ridicule others)
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, (read your bible)
And in His law he meditates day and night. (seriously, read your bible)
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, (you’ll have strength)
Which yields its fruit in its season (the things you love will grow)
And its leaf does not wither; (and grow)
And in whatever he does, he prospers. (and your life will be made whole)
Parenting is a funny journey, at times revealing the very best and very worst of our own characters. At one moment, I’m the involved father playing for hours in the pool or on the beach. At another moment, I’m losing my temper at my 3 year old for her temper tantrum about shoes. Its funny isn’t it? When we lose our tempers because of the emotional reaction of a child? It’s like a temper tantrum in reverse. But anyone that has parented knows they are capable of this. Parenting is hard at times.
At the end of a characteristically loud lunch Heather took the littler kids to the bathroom while I sat and held my baby son. I sat thinking about all these things. About the man on the bike, about time going fast, about parenting, about the promise of the bible that our fruit will be good if we anchor our lives to Christ. As I sat and thought, an older man sitting a few feet away (who hadn’t seemed to say a word to his party he was sitting with the entire meal) came over and bent close to me and squeezed my shoulder. “You’re doing a good job here.” He looked at the baby and then waved towards the stairs all the family had just descended, “with them all.”
We all need words of encouragement at times to know we’re doing okay. And the truth is, through the challenges of parenting, we’re doing okay. Because we are planting ourselves near streams of water. We read the bible with the kids in the morning. We pray at night. We go to church together. We’re anchoring ourselves to God and trusting Him with making our fruit good. Making our lives enough. And I can picture him walking around the busy restaurant of our lives, standing behind us, wanting to squeeze our shoulders and tell us all: “you’re doing a good job here.”