Recently I heard a song that talks about a father’s feelings for his family. As the singer looks into the eyes of his children he hears them saying:
Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
OK, it’s a bit sentimental, but it struck a chord with me as a parent. I think the song expresses the feelings that parents experience as they try to be role models and protectors for their children. I long to lead my children with strong hands, I live to stand up when they can’t.
When I held my first baby in my arms, I was instantly committed completely to him. But I don’t think I realized how relentless the work of parenting would be. As they grow up the challenges change, but there is no other job that fills every moment of your life as completely. There are the increased domestic tasks associated with more people in the house, all the child activity tasks, and the constant mental gymnastics associated with figuring out why they behave the way they do, wondering whether it’s normal or not, and if in any way it could be my fault.
My mum used to roll her eyes as she finished one task and started preparations for another, she used to say “A woman’s work is never done”. That’s not very PC now—and she wasn’t meaning to dismiss my fathers contribution–she was just expressing what she felt like. As a mum or a dad it is easy to feel like the “last one standing” each day, the one responsible for everyone else. Sometimes I am the last one standing, sometimes it is my husband. Of course there are many rewards, of course the joys far outweigh everything, but there are times when I need the reminder that comes when I look into my children’s eyes and see that plea again “Stand up when I can’t—because when you do, you show me how to stand”.
Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
When I first heard these words I thought about fighting for my children. But lately I have realized that it can also mean being willing to fight with them. I hate conflict, but lately I have had a few (OK, more than a few) battles with my oldest son. Before Christmas we had quite a lot of heated discussions about why he is not allowed to have an “M” rated video game. Eventually I said to him, “It’s not that I want to prevent you from enjoying yourself—I am trying to protect you”. Then I told him that when I first saw him as a baby, I made a commitment to always do what was best for him, no matter what. “Did you really do that?” he asked, slightly pleased but also annoyed at the same time. For me it was a lesson that makes some of our disagreements easier to bear–Sometimes I need to be willing to fight with him to show him what he means to me.
When I think of the challenges of parenthood, I think of my own father, who stood up for our family his whole life long. For him that meant working long hours every day for many years so that we could have what we needed. Having the perseverance to live a consistent life in the face of the ordinary challenges of every day takes strength. My dad has consistently been there my whole life long. He is there for me now. He is older today and his physical strength is gone. He needs help to stand physically, but mentally and spiritually he still stands like a giant at the head of our family, spurring the rest of us on to stand up for another year.
Lyrics are from the song “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real.