- They transform the life of the parent. Two epochs: pre-child/post-child
- They force us to think about someone else, and grow in the desirable trait of unselfishness
- They are a continual source of joy, enthralling us with each every milestone: first smile, first step, first word!
- They give us a definite sense of purpose and reason for being
- They keep us in the present moment
- They remind us to play; to take it easy and enjoy our lives
- They remind us of things long forgotten: the sound of a fire engine, a line of ants on the sidewalk, to dress up for Halloween!
- They add a dimension of newness to life
Parenting can be likened to B.C. & A.D. (Before Child/ After Delivery!). There really are two epochs in a parent’s life. At least that’s how I remember experiencing it. (I have a 20-year old daughter who is doing great!)
It’s great that there are nine months for the infant to develop inside her mother’s womb because it gives the parents an opportunity to prepare for this BIG transition in their lives. And transition it is: from going from being solely responsible for oneself and maybe a spouse, to suddenly having the full responsibility of another’s life. In other words, it marks the beginning of another epoch in the life of the adult.
Before the adult can easily come and go as she wishes. Now, he must be aware of the life of his child, where he is, what she needs, how he is feeling, etc. This added responsibility carries with it many difficulties as well as untold blessings, of which we will examine some of them in this blog post!
I think one of the bigger blessings is that it requires the parent to attain some degree (a lot!) of “other focusing”. In other words, life is no longer all about himself. It involves thinking unselfishly in regards to the child. This focus helps in growing the trait of unselfishness, which is highly regarded as a spiritual strength. In fact, the idea of love can sometimes be described as “giving yourself to another human being without expecting anything in return.”
Joy, Joy, Joy
However, if parenting was just about learning to be other-centered or unselfish, what fun would that be?! The truth is parenting ushers in oodles of untold joy to the parent (and caregiver who cares for children—by the way). In the initial stages of a child’s life, the infant can be observed to have amazing characteristics. They seem to come out of the womb (and sometimes even exhibit traits or characteristics inside the womb) with definite personality traits! It can be surprising to observe this for the first time. Some infants may be vocal, cooing a lot. Others may be great starers, watching everything around them with hawk eye intensity. This individuality of each baby is rather interesting to observer and interact with. Yes, it can be fun!
Of course, as infants develop, they begin to interact with their environments more and with the people around them. These interactions can be enjoyable, especially for the mother who feels the infant nuzzling into the crook of her bosom while perhaps breastfeeding. Or, when the infant falls asleep in one’s arms, this state of calmness and gentle stability can be an amazingly peaceful sensation.
All of the stages of development in a child’s life offer enjoyment and joy to the accompanying adult. For example, how much effort and “work” has little Johnny practiced until that day when he takes his first step on his own (aka ‘walking’)! To those around him, they feel like (and often do) erupt in cheering and applause in celebration of the momentous occasion.
This list of parenting joys could go on and on. Take or view our favorite joy poll here. But the main point is that there is plenty of joy and happiness to go around in the process of raising and caring for a child.
Raising and caring for children engender a high sense of purpose for parents and caregivers alike. Undoubtedly, there is no activity more important in life than being entrusted with the care, survival and development of another human being, and that’s exactly the primary role of every child’s parent and caregiver.
Needless to say, the job is not easy! Coming home tired from work, and then having the additional tasks of caring for one’s child can often push a parent to the brink of … (fill in the blank!). But, the flip side to that coin is that this set of additional tasks can also be perceived as a strong mission, and give the parent a definite and genuine sense that what they are doing is important. This translates into very meaningful work.
Living in the Present Moment
Children live in the present moment. Try asking a young child what he did yesterday or last week, and he may look at you with a puzzled expression. The concept of time seems to be foreign to most preschool age children. They live in the dimension of NOW, whether now is playtime, snack time, lunchtime, nap time, circle time or bedtime!
This “being in the present moment” is a welcome respite to the adult mind which is frequently planning, calculating and weighing pros and cons of any given situation or potential outcome. It is refreshing to realize that there is much to do and be aware of in the present moment. In fact, in order to connect with a child in your immediate presence, the adult needs to put aside all other thoughts and get focused on what is being said or done right now.
The Language of Play
One of the more enthralling characteristics of childhood is the phenomenon of play. There are many books about play, and many preschool and childcare centers seek to integrate the idea of play as a basis and foundation for their programs. Rightly so, as play seems to be the petri dish of experimentation where children act out behaviors and make sense of the world they observe around themselves.
Adults play too; more obviously around a bottle of wine and a good meal—when time is taken to relax and “let one’s hair down.” Yet, while in the presence of children, most adults find that they won’t get very far without engaging the child at her level, and that usually involves play of some sort. Whether it is pushing a child on a swing or reading a toddler a picture book, most parents understand innately the high value of play, and are willing participants of it.
Play lightens the load of the adult who may otherwise have grave responsibilities. It gives one a sense of lightheartedness and reminds us to have fun, laugh, giggle, and joke. Interacting with children on their level opens the door for this pleasant sense of frivolity and joy, and is undoubtedly a wonderful benefit of caring for a child.
Reminders and a Sense of Newness in Life
How many of us can rightly claim that we still pay attention to the sound of a fire engine siren? Or, perhaps when we are walking on the sidewalk and come across a line of ants dutifully doing their business, how many of us would necessarily stop and study them? These are just a couple of examples of how children bring us into the realm of remembering things long forgotten. Sure, we still know the sound of a siren, or even see the ants crawling, but to give either of these two examples the time of day, and actually pause and listen or stoop down and observe, that usually requires the presence of a child in our life.
In this way, children bring out a new world to us—a world we may have forgotten. Or perhaps, a world we may have never explored ourselves. This sense of newness is another gift we receive from the children in our lives.
As a gift for visiting my blog and registering below for new blog entries from me, I will send you a Free Copy of my e-book “Mikey Goes to School“ , which I wrote and illustrated for preschoolers.