Confessions of a Twenty-Nine Year Old Toddler

Wednesday, December 10, 2014



When Grace was a newborn, she was incredibly needy and overwhelmed with life. That meant that we, her parents, were also incredibly needy and overwhelmed with life. But during that season, we saw God answer our prayers with unusual clarity and indulgence. He would often give us exactly what we wanted, when we wanted.

In many ways, the simplicity and generosity with which God responded to our needs reflected the way we were caring for our newborn baby: basically, keeping her alive and responding to her every cry. God used our experience parenting Grace to help me see more clearly the ways He was caring for us as His own children.

These days, Grace is nearly two years old. And what was good parenting at two weeks old — instantly giving into her every wish — is terrible parenting now. So a major part of parenting Grace these days is helping her learn boundaries. "That's very, very hot." "It's too dark to go outside right now." "You can go on the slide one more time and then you're all done."

Grace is actually pretty good at respecting boundaries. But sometimes, inevitably, when Grace doesn't get what she wants, she will throw a tantrum.

It has been enlightening for me to look at things from her perspective. Her requests, and even her tantrums, are perfectly reasonable to her. What is selfish and irrational, in her mind, is my refusal to give her what she wants. She knows I have the power to, so why won't I?

Of course, as her father, I know why I won't. When I tell her "no" or "wait," I am often trying to give her something more valuable than the thing she is asking for. I am keeping her safe, or teaching her character traits like patience and kindness that will serve her well the rest of her life. But of course she doesn't understand all that.

Just as God used my newborn parenting days as a mirror to help me see His abundant provision for me, I feel like He is using my toddler parenting days as a mirror to help me see how He is often trying to give me things more valuable than what I ask Him for.

One recent example stands out. For months now I have had a habit of waking up early before Christie and the girl(s) so I can spend time with God before the busy day. Sounds so holy, right? But recently, on many mornings, just when I have settled into my favorite spot, with my cup of tea, my Bible, and my journal, I have heard something that makes my heart sink: Cora crying. She has woken up early for the day, upset and needing me to hold her. And just like that, my quiet time has ended.

Many mornings I have tried in vain for nearly an hour to get Cora back to sleep and out of my arms, getting more and more frustrated as I watch my morning time slip away before my eyes — my journal idly open, my tea getting cold, the busy day rushing up to meet me. And it has happened morning after morning, even though I have repeatedly asked God to protect this quiet morning space. The loss of control has pushed my buttons.

I have even thrown tantrums.

I am not usually an angry guy, but on my worst mornings, I have found myself punching and throwing pillows at the wall and wanting to scream in frustration over losing my precious personal space day after day. It turns out that, much like toddler Grace, I don't always do so well when I don't get what I want, when I want it. My protests may be more sophisticated  "God, don't you understand? I'm asking for space to read the Bible and pray! Surely you will keep my baby asleep for that!"  but my pillow-punching has revealed that underneath all my spiritual-sounding reasoning is a twenty-nine year old toddler throwing a tantrum.

Thankfully, on my better mornings, my Father has given me some perspective. He has drawn my attention back to recent prayers where I sincerely asked Him to make me a man who experiences His joyful presence throughout my whole day, not just while I'm "having my quiet time." He has shown me that Cora "interrupting" my mornings was was actually part of His answer to my own prayers. In His wisdom, God knew that what I needed to grow in this area was not more time reading the Bible, but concrete practice at being interrupted and learning to find joy in the midst of it. And so I have been learning, slowly, to experience more of God's presence in the midst of caring for my daughters.

He has also reminded me of the kind of dad I have always wanted to be: a father who welcomes my daughters' interruptions joyfully. My wise heavenly Father has chosen not to protect my morning quiet time, in order that he might protect me from becoming a dad who gets so consumed with his "important things" (especially holy-sounding spiritual stuff) that I cease to welcome my daughters with joy. He has given me something better than what I asked for, even though the process has been painful.

I am grateful for these words in Hebrews 12:7-11, which have encouraged me and given me much perspective over these past few months:

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. ... We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

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1 comments

  1. Thanks for this reminder. I'm learning these lessons in parenting as well.

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