Doing Hard Things



Parenting is hard.

Yes, it is a blessing. Yes, it is an inexplicable bond of love that until a person experiences it they have no comprehension of its depth. But it is hard.

I’ll add…being a parent is hard period. It’s made different by varying degrees of circumstance. Health, finances, relationships, and support, or the absence of these things are all contributors. But the one constant, no matter the degrees of separation, is…parenting is hard work.

Sometimes the work is physical. I still have a toddler and remember with nauseating vividness the demands of a newborn. Other times the work is emotional—the unrelenting worrying about safety and health in all its forms. In my personal opinion, the worst is navigating the minefield of parenting your child(ren) using only guts and God as guidance. For we all know…there are no guarantees. Try as you might, you still may commit a FUBAR of epic proportions.

About two months ago, The Hubby and I had to make a decision. The fine details are not important. I will describe it like this…

Our nine-year-old daughter was engaged in an activity she truly loved. It was a time consuming and physically demanding schedule to keep her involved. In addition, it was expensive, and while she gained confidence, joy, friendship, and courage, I could see she was tired, under pressure to perform to a certain standard, and there were elements to the culture that I did not agree with. In fact, there were several things about it that my intuition told me had the potential to develop into a perfect storm of destruction (specifically for my type-A, perfectionist child). But…and it’s a big BUT…all the good stuff she was gaining was there, it was real. The growth in her skill and character was obvious. She seemed happy…she said she loved it and I believed she did.

I was conflicted.

I think this scenario applies to so many activities nowadays. Be it any physically demanding sport from basketball, to dancing, to hockey, or “fill-in-the-blank”. There is immense pressure from our culture to keep our children physically active, there is pressure to “develop” them while they are young, and there is pressure to allow children to dictate their own interests and pursuits without parental influence.

What if I squelch my child’s passion because I don’t share it, or don’t see it?

What if I’ve caused her to miss an opportunity to find success, learn life skills, or discover what she is truly good at?

What if my child is behind all his peers because I/we held him back from participating or didn’t engage him/her enough?

What if my child is unhealthy or uncoordinated/not athletic etc. because I’m not encouraging/directing enough physical activity?

What if my child has difficulty fitting in because he hasn’t forged bonds with teammates or with children who have shared interests? What if my child is left out?

The list goes on.

Who has a school-aged child and hasn’t asked themselves one or more of these questions? I’m guessing the majority has. I know some variation of each has rattled in my brain a time or two…or a million.

Our daughter stopped her beloved activity. It was a very complicated situation that led us to this decision, but in the end, all that matters is that she was no longer participating. She was heartbroken when she heard the news. Giant alligator tears rolled down her perfectly curved cheeks. Her intensely shy personality took over and she was quiet—almost silent—for hours that felt like years to her momma. I prepared myself for what might come next. Anger? Sadness? Detachment?

It never came.

Over the course of the following six weeks she was…happy. I’m not suggesting she was unhappy before, but I am saying I didn’t know what level of happiness—homeostatic happiness—she was capable of. She was getting up in the morning for school without having to be torn from her bed because she was appropriately and obviously rested. She showed interest in new and different activities. Many she even tried and had fun doing. She wasn’t open to doing more or different previously. She spent far more evenings playing with her siblings and neighbors, and weekends traveling with the family with the objective of only family time (without guilt of missing anything). Most importantly, she was laughing, imagining, pretending, experimenting, and helping more and more.

This example, it is small. It didn’t seem small at the time. But in retrospect, it was a molehill not a mountain.

But small things can also be important things. And sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same. And sometimes…if we’re lucky…the small hard choices we make set right what may’ve gone wrong, and in doing so give a lesson or a blessing (or both) that make us believe…we can do hard things.