Last week my son got sick in the car.
Luckily my husband was able to come home and help me with the clean up. We stripped down the child, got his clothes in the washer and got him settled next to a bucket, just in case. Then we got to work on my vehicle. We took the car seat apart, putting the fabric pieces in the washing machine, wiping down whatever else we could with wet wipes.
It wasn’t fun.
But in the midst of it I turned to my husband and said, “Yannow, I’d deal with vomit every day if it meant we didn’t have to deal with the other stuff.”
“The other stuff” means the ambiguous parts of parenting. The times when you’re picking the lesser of two evils. Dealing with “the other stuff” means pouring so much thought and emotion into making the best choice possible…but still feeling unsure with your final decision. It means making a choice that seems right at this time, yet acknowledging that years down the road you might realize that you made a mistake.
This is what I was thinking about as we aired out my car and wipes down yucky surfaces.
Vomit is gross. But it’s completely straightforward. Your kid pukes so you clean it up, you cancel activities for the next 24 hours and you put them on the couch with a bucket and the remote control.
“The other stuff” is complicated. Multifaceted. Messy. Uncertain.
I read somewhere that the first couple of years of your child’s life are hard because they are all-consuming. But the actual parenting is pretty straightforward. You’re exhausted and worn out, for sure. But you know what to do most of the time.
Then your child starts sleeping through the night. They finish teething. They can eat without choking. They outgrow the risk of SIDS. They learn to use the toilet.
It feels like it should be time to relax and breathe a bit easier.
But that’s when the other issues come in. And all that other stuff is pretty complicated. Messy.
Should you let your daughter hang out with the friend who pushes her around a lot? Will she learn to stand up for herself or will she be vulnerable to bullying?
Do you keep your child in the school that doesn’t seem to be a great fit or do you pull them out mid-way through the year to hopefully find a better option?
How do you deal with moving across the country when you child is already at a vulnerable age and you’re afraid that one more change might just be the last straw for him?
When your child doesn’t mesh well with a teacher, a therapist, or a coach, do you intervene or let them work through it?
If your son hates an extracurricular activity, do you let him quit or teach him to persevere through something unpleasant?
These are the sorts of questions that don’t have easy, clear-cut answers because it’s not just about making the right decision. It’s about making the right decision for that kid in that situation at that time.
I’ll be the first to admit that we’re at the very beginning of these decisions. Our son is only three and a half. Yet in the past year or so we’ve been faced with several of these heart-wrenching, all-consuming decisions. We turn the options over and over, trying desperately to see into our child’s life, his personality, his strengths and weaknesses, and also to see into the future to predict the best decision.
But all of this – all these prayers, and tears, and conversations, and speculations, and reasonings, and wonderings – all of it comes down to faith.
I believe that I am trying to do the best for my child.
I believe that I am trying to make the best choice based on the knowledge I have.
I believe that I will do whatever I can to support my child.
I believe that this all might end up being a giant mistake that I wish I could take back.
I believe that my child will be resilient, in spite of my choices.
I believe that I will certainly make mistakes along the way.
And I believe, ultimately, deeply, assuredly, that I must do my very, very best and then trust the outcome to God.