Many of you watched some or part of the Women’s World Cup soccer action this month. Our soccer playing daughters watched with keen interest and often loud evaluations of the US team and their opponents. I saw a bit of it, and like all sports for me, unless my child is playing, my interest is limited. This interest will soon grow to include grandchildren I am sure. Because I never played on a sports team in my life, I have no personal experience to draw on, so unless someone I know is playing a sport, it doesn’t hold my interest.
But – I do know that to succeed as an athlete, it takes a significant commitment of time, effort, and sacrifice. I saw that with our children. Choosing to play a sport precludes other activities. I remember when one of our daughters quit violin lessons to play sports. I was heart-broken, but she was 13 and had to make a choice since practice and games made both impractical (some families do work through this dilemma successfully). The same commitment, sacrifice, effort and time is required if one desires to succeed in music, dance, drama, art, or other pursuits. The key to gaining proficiency and pleasure from these activities is very similar despite the great diversity of skill required. The self-discipline a child learns through practice is an important life lesson. Practicing something is the way one learns and improves. The first time a child tries to do something it often becomes painful, either literally or emotionally – sometimes both.
Our granddaughters have learned to ride bicycles recently and we have enjoyed watching them ride up and down our driveway, improving the more they practice. Yet, it started out with tears from scuffed toes, stuck pedals, and hurt feelings. There were even several crashes.
I found myself thinking as I watched Pop, Mom, or Dad help each child with their unique challenges in learning to ride a bike that it is just the way God sees us. As I face new challenges of being a parent, I will mess up, get hurt, pick myself up and try again. If my first attempt fails at making bedtime, mealtime, or bath time smooth and effective, I will keep practicing and try a new strategy. I give myself that kind of grace when creating art, but why am I so hard on myself when it comes to parenting? Do I realize how unrealistic it is to expect instant perfection? What kind of nana would I be if I expected my grandchildren to ride bikes perfectly the first time?
Effective parenting requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and sacrifice. It requires that I give up some things so that I focus fully on what is important – my children. It also means that I will make some mistakes and learn from those mistakes. (God Bless our first-born!!!)
Our culture celebrates the sacrifices of time and effort that athletes make to excel. “No Pain, No Gain” is often touted. I want to celebrate the mothers of young children who are giving their all each and every day, who don’t give up even when they are discouraged, who press on! God is so blessed when we look to Him for strength and grace. Romans 5: 1-5 says:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.