Thick and Thin

Writers need to develop elastic skin, somehow able to be thick and thin at the same time; thin enough for the world to seep through into the heart and onto the page, and thick enough to endure criticisms and judgments without slamming down the pen or laptop cover for good.

And like writing, the more I live into my role as a parent, the more my skin pulls and stretches. Kissing goodbye in the mornings often feels like hitting publish on a blogpost; even though they are their own people, I still cringe to think of how others may treat them. No wonder parenting is described as having your heart walk around outside your body—no bones or flesh or skin to guard it. It makes me want to slam my front door and shut them up safely in our house forever where no sun scalds, no snow stings, no rain pelts, no winter wind chaps.

A wise therapist once told me I would benefit from a parenting mentor, just like my writing mentors and pastoral mentors. Professional mentors are easy to find; I exude competence in my job most days, but parenting often leaves me wrecked. Finding a parenting mentor feels foreign to me, but I’m finding my way. It’s good to have someone share their scars and stretch marks with me, displaying the wounds that have healed over from their years raising kids, and to hear having the principal call—often—isn’t the end of the world; that my skin is surprisingly supple and will withstand more than I believe, like when I approached the end of my pregnancies and marveled at the size of my belly, my skin adjusting beyond what seemed possible.

This year at church the Confirmation parents are attending all classes with their kids (thank you, parents!). We’re reading through Rich Melheim’s book titled Holding Your Family Together. It’s led to wonderful discussions about bedtime rituals and praying together as a family. Last week in class, several families talked about how they’ve shared highs and lows at the dinner table for years. Parents divulged memories of their own bedtimes when they were children. One mom remembered lying in bed in her room, her siblings each in their own rooms and their mother in the hallway, leading bedtime prayers they prayed together in chorus. Another mom still dozes off when talking with her sister, who shared her childhood bedroom and whose voice put her to sleep every night. And the parents honestly and bravely shared their hopes for bedtime—to pray with a high school son, to explore blessing each other, to read Scripture together, to make it a ritual—at the same time wondering if it would really work.

These families join my cloud of parenting witnesses. I look forward to learning more than I teach in Confirmation this year. And together we’ll grow from the stories of generations past as we ask hard questions and stretch to make room for God in our homes and hearts—especially in the hearts that scramble out the door each morning into the world.

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