Incarnational Parenting

IMG_1587 I'm sitting on the floor next to the washing machine folding the laundry that has piled up during our baby's virus. He's still not himself, and he's fussy and easily frustrated. He picks up his battery-powered train and points it toward the wall away from both of us. It gets stuck there. He motions for me to get it with wide eyes and a little "uh oh!"

"You can get it, Baby," I tell him. But he shakes his head, his most frequent toddler move these days. He starts to fuss but stops immediately as I lunge toward the train saying, "Oh no! Let's rescue Thomas!"

He grins and giggles as I hand him his train, and the grin is worth it. The rest of our laundry-folding proceeds in this way: I fold one article of clothing--maybe two--in the time it takes for Thomas to get stuck. Then Liam motions toward his struggling train, and I crawl forward to get him and hand him back. Liam is delighted.

Not every second goes this way. Sometimes Liam has to figure it out for himself. Sometimes I can't immediately help him. But in moments where I often think, "Why? Why can't you do it yourself?" I remember the Incarnation.

In the Incarnation, rather than forcing us to come to Him (which we can't), Jesus takes on flesh and comes to us. Rather than clinging to Divinity, which He has every right to do, Jesus becomes man, lives the life we couldn't live, dies the death we deserve, and rises again.

I remember reading a book about how good missionaries must do this too--they must take on the culture they are working within rather than just clinging to their own culture.

And motherhood is also an exercise in taking on my baby's view--his frustrations and needs. It can feel too much to wake up in the night and rock a sick baby back to sleep. It can be frustrating when my simple day plan gets thwarted by a fussy baby. But in my best parenting moments, I'm on his level, interacting with him, considering his perspective, and seeking to enter into his world. I take off my own desires and needs and preferences and kneel down to him.

This has been a challenging week. We're not frazzled or overwhelmed, but it has taken a lot of effort to stay relaxed amid the changes that a virus brings. And I've had to remind myself over and over that sometimes motherhood is incarnational, giving up what my flesh wants--and sometimes needs--for him.

Sometimes it's a cup of water or a cuddle or a story; other times, it's something that seems mundane like picking up his car when he rolls it away from himself or playing with sidewalk chalk for way longer than I want to. It's often stopping what I'm doing to immediately look him in the eye and speak to him. And it's always worth it.

Not only does gentleness, patience, and the desire to know him bring out the best in my baby, but it also reminds me of the Incarnation of Christ who takes on much greater suffering.

And in Christ's strength, I can continue this Incarnational parenting, being okay with often making myself nothing and taking on the form of a servant for my son. In that, I find great joy. It's not easy, but it shows me a tiny glimpse of a much greater love. It's the ultimate looking through the eyes of a child.