The Tuesday before Christmas we sat down for dinner. A wood slice stamped with “Merry and Bright” hangs on the kitchen wall. Dark green leaves and bright red berries decorate the small wooden box I’d made a few months back – when the weather was warmer. The citrus scent of our Christmas tree seasons the whole house. Seated at the table, holding hands, we bow our heads and close our eyes. Pax begins to pray…
“Dear God, I mean, our-heavenly-Father.” After a slight dramatic pause he delivers a simple prayer. “I pray, God, that you will have a good Christmas, and that…” pausing to think “…however old you’re going to be, it will be a good one.”
I chuckle as quietly as I can and with my head still bowed I look discretely at my wife, who was also trying to keep from cracking up , at least until the final “Amen”.
“Mom, is it harder as an adult when you have kids?” Pax wonders aloud as he wanders into the living room.
Every parent everywhere knows the answer. But here is a sensitive six-year-old boy.
“Why do you ask, buddy?”
“I don’t know, I was just thinking that.”
It seemed he really was just wondering. But neither of us admitted the truth that day. A non-denial denial.
A few days later Pax came to us with the same question again.
We wondered if he’d heard someone saying something like this (hopefully it wasn’t us) or if he’d seen it somewhere on TV. But this seemed to be just another one of his inquiries about the world. Like his other recent question about where the first kids came from.
He wanted to know if kids made life as an adult harder. Erica and I stared at each other, hesitating, waiting for the other to come up with…anything.
“Kids don’t make life harder, Pax. Being an adult is just harder than being a kid. You have a lot more responsibilities and things to worry about, so life is just harder when you’re an adult. But kids don’t make it harder.”
He seemed to understand.
I kept thinking about my answer…
A friend of mine – I like to think of him as a friend, even though I’ve never met him in person – a stay at home dad, Oren Miller, once wrote some amazing words. I often wonder how I would do as an at-home parent and sometimes I think taking care of the home and family is harder than what I do for a paycheck. I found the answer to my son’s question in these words.
“I believe in Heaven on Earth, and I believe it’s found anywhere you seek it… I found Heaven on long car rides with the kids… I found Heaven on the dirty floor of a basketball court… waiting [with my two year old] for her brother to finish school before we could head back home… where she made me plastic sandwiches and tea… she made up that game calling it “going to the birthday party.”
Now understand that Oren wrote those while battling Stage 4 cancer, with only one year to live.
In the face of death he found Heaven, and it was with his family.
Oren died February 28th, 2015.
Do kids make life harder?
How can I answer that?
It’s impossible to describe the feeling of being a parent. No, it’s not smiles all the time. Sleepless nights, tantrums (from them and me), mood swings, discipline, the weight of wondering if you’re doing it at all right. When I first became a dad I struggled so much. It was one of the most difficult transitions of my life. And yes, even today, it continues to be hard at times. I will ask the kids to play up in their room because it’s just so much silliness I can’t handle it. I get impatient. I fail often…
But if you seek it, parenting can be as rewarding as birthday prayers for God, stuffed animal fashion shows, muffled laughter heard through the heating ducts, and trampoline dodgeball in the summer…. or more simply put:
Heaven on earth
“It was only on the drive back that I realized I had been experiencing the biggest tragedy of human existence: I was having the time of my life, and I didn’t even know it. That was a good day, since once you make that decision, man… You’re in Heaven every single second of your life.”
You can read more about Oren from some of my Dad Blogger friends.