I took today off from my new little job (at church). I gave today entirely to my main huge job (parenting 2boys). We all needed it.
We walked / strollered to the park – a park that is one mile from our home that has very recently acquired a playground after being without for quite some time. I sat alone on the embankment that sloped down to the wood chips while 2boys played and while almost a dozen other moms sat around in small groups, talking amongst themselves. I eavesdropped on several conversations, noting cynically that nearly all of their children had all the same names. I also noticed, again cynically, that they all seemed to be obsessing about a bunch of shallow, culturally narrow-minded parenting ideologies. To my left was the mom who said loudly, “Now, Elijah, would you like raw nuts, raw raisins, or raw water for your snack?” To my right was another mom: “I brush Emma’s teeth really really good and I tell her that if she doesn’t brush she’ll be in a lot of pain later on…” On and on and on. For an hour. I even phoned a friend and left a voicemail, begging her to rescue me from my impending intellectual suicide.
It’s not that I never ever talk about any of this stuff. And it’s not that I don’t care about any of this stuff. And it’s certainly not that I don’t brush 2boys’ teeth. It’s just that talking about it bores me to death. It’s that I continue to insist that I won’t let it take up any of my parenting brain-space. I just won’t. There are so many other important parenting mysteries and challenges which I have yet to work out. I need all of the brain-space I can muster just to let those grow and form in my mind and heart and actions.
Sometimes I get so sad and so angry when it seems that hardly anyone cares anymore about the most important things about parenting. Like building character. Like the spiritual formation of one’s children. Like being a student of your child so that you can wisely lead them in grace and truth to be all that God created them to be.
I was lost in thought.
And then: One of the moms whose voice I hadn’t yet picked out of the cacophony approached me, took off her hat, and said, “Are you Jocelyn?”
It was an old acquaintance from an old church I’d attended. She is just a bit older than me, with children just a bit older than mine, but with a lot more parenting experience and wisdom than I have. What ensued was one of those hour long, inspiringly hopeful, humiliatingly authentic, spiritually deep, still talking while you’re trying to say goodbye conversations that you promise yourself you’ll soon start again. In the middle of the conversation, I remembered that I’d been asking God for a local friend with kids just a bit older than mine – someone I could look to and learn from as I approach the unknown seasons of parenting ahead of me. And she’s a runner. I hadn’t even been asking for that.
When we finally said our third, real goodbye, I said, “Oh, I like you.” And she said, “I found a new friend today.”
So, as I walked the mile home, I quickly repented of all my cynical judgment of all the shallow moms at the park. Someone has to obsess about raw nuts so that I can buy them for 2boys to eat. Then I thanked God for giving me a new friend and mentor.