My worst parenting moments are typically in the middle of the night when one of the boys is taking an uncharacteristically long time to fall back asleep after waking. It’s a combination of three difficult factors: my tiredness, the unexpectedness of the problem, and the baby’s insomnia. I could probably handle things with more grace if only one or two of those factors was involved, but together they are a deadly trifecta to my parenting calm. Because I’m tired, it’s harder for me to assess the situation and come up with a solution; because the wakefulness is unexpected and not a normal event, I have no routine already in place to deal with it; and because the baby is also tired and out of sync with his normal routine, he typically can’t express what exactly is bothering him and keeping him up. Limerick has been known to scream for a good 30 minutes straight before managing to sob out that he wants a bottle of milk instead of a bottle of water, for example, which is a far cry from his communicative daytime self.
It is in those moments that I most desperately need to turn to God for help. That is when I am most helpless, most frustrated, least buoyed up by my own reason, most emotionally and physically fragile and worn out. And yet I don’t often find myself searching for grace and peace at those times. The immediacy of the problem blots out everything else from my mind, unfortunately.
And that is one of the reasons why it is so important for me to bathe my parenting in prayer in all the other moments – to keep praying for grace, wisdom, patience, and strength even when everything seems to be going well, so that when things get hard and my sleep-fogged brain can’t see past the crying baby, I’ve already asked God for the help I’ll need to get through it with love. I have to cultivate my relationship with Him, my dependence on Him, through all the easy times, the happy times, the normal times, so that my anchor and foundation are already secure when the challenges arise. It would be foolish to think the challenges would never come, and even more foolish to think I’d be able to handle them without a consistent effort to walk with God.
So tonight I think I’ll be preemptively praying for patience, wisdom, and compassion, just in case Limerick is up for hours in the night again – and maybe that will help me when I can’t see past the irrational tears and my body is crying out for sleep. If the Spirit is there reminding me of the reasons Limerick might be up (last night he was in some sort of pain and it took a dose of Tylenol to settle him down), helping me find solutions, helping me think despite my fatigue, maybe I won’t get so frustrated with my little guy, and will be able to better respond with gentleness and love, just like God consistently responds to me even when my complaints and tears make no sense at all in the light of the bigger picture that He can see.