When Henry was born, we were so excited and thrilled to have a new baby after a five-year space. But this also ushered in what would be some of the hardest years of my mothering career (to date). I thought having four little boys was tough, but wrangling a baby while keeping up with four bigger boys was tougher still.
When Henry came along (and then, surprise! Isabel a few years later), life with a baby was certainly very sweet. But it’s okay to admit that for as wonderful and amazing as a new baby is, he is also a lot of work. Lots of sleepless nights and early mornings and needing to be able to just stop dead in your tracks to feed someone (again) and change a diaper (again) and if this isn’t your first baby, then you’re doing all of this while keeping track of your other sweet, precious gifts from above.
Babies are wonderful and precious and not for wimps.
But here is the amazing things about wee, tiny little children: they grow up.
Henry came along (and then Isabel) and we went back to the days of little, high-needs children and it was sweet and challenging. And I learned so much in that season, a time when all the fun and out-of-the-house activities I had started to do as our boys got older, well those went out the window. I was back to needing most of my time and energy for caring for my children, with little left over.
And what I learned was that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do.
My worth does not come from a To Do list that gets done or my ability to volunteer or be in charge. In the days of babies and small children, what you learn is a giant does of humility — and not just because there are plenty of embarrassing moments. You learn humility because you are completely dependent on God and his grace and yes you dig deep to your own strength but the beautiful thing is that you become acutely aware of just how small you are. You get the job done, but you know it’s all grace.
And now, just like that, Henry is 8. Eight years old! Now that I have an 18-year-old I understand that eight is indeed still a little boy. But of course it’s plenty big, and Henry is starting to grow into being a “bigger” boy. He’s still the youngest of our five boys and has plenty of the traits that a younger brother has.
But lately, I’ve noticed that our boy is growing up. He’s learning to listen and calm down and do what he needs to do. He comes when he’s called and tows the line (more or less) and all those strong personality challenges we worked so hard to finesse, well many of them tightening up. We certainly haven’t changed the nature of our son, but with God’s grace he is beginning to operate out of the strengths of his character instead of giving in to them. Henry is a strong-willed child and he’s starting to use this for good.
This too shall pass. I think about this when I’m reflecting on Henry and the gift he is to our family. The hard season of having a baby again after a season without has come and gone. The season of a strong-willed toddler is behind us and now, as we ease into Henry being 8, and the special joy of a boy this age.
Parenting will always have its challenges but now I see that some seasons really are much harder than others. And I see, too, just how much God is with us in each one.