My husband works on roofs. I have known this little fact for years, ever since he started working as a carpenter. He doesn’t “only” work on roofs, but it does happen. For the most part, I don’t really think about it. Or when I do, I pretend that it is a short, low-pitched roof that is pretty much like walking up a slight hill. But every once in awhile, we will be out on a nice drive, and he will point to some crazy steep-pitched barn and say “Oh, hey, I did that roof,” all nonshalant. And I look at him, wild-eyed, my well-honed mother instinct bubbling to the surface “What! What were you doing up there?!?”
And he smirks a bit “Uh, making a living…”
Being up on roofs is part of his profession. Part that I hate. Part that he has learned to cope with. One day about a month ago he came home and said “So, do you want to know the secret to working on roofs?” “Not really. But OK.” I replied, again, preferring ignorance over acceptance.
“You have to look here,
and not here.”
“If you focus on the fear,” he continued, “if you focus on the possibility of failure, of the great risks involved, you start to panic, and it isn’t safe for you to even be up there. But if you can keep your mind on your work, and every once in awhile admire the view, you do OK.”
This morning, we got our first dusting of snow for the season. Right now there is a small break in the weather before the massive snow-storm hits this afternoon. We are expected to get about 6-10 inches of snow, blowing crazy winds, and lows around 4 degrees. Yuck.
It’s not yet Thanksgiving, and it’s tempting to lose heart thinking of five or six months of cold, blustery winter ahead. Bundled up and adequately gloved, we went outside this morning and started to prepare for snow. We brought wood to the house, picked up, straightened up, pulled bikes in from the weather. While we worked and the snow fell silently around us, turning everything white, it really was…dare I say it? Pleasant. It was.
Everything was turning from the dreary browns and worn-out golds to a bright, clean white. The air was pleasant and crisp, and when we came inside the house had transformed into a cozy haven.
“There are good things about winter, arent’ there?” I mused to my husband. “I mean, it isn’t all bad. After all, there are cookies to look forward to…”
And that’s just the truth of it. In spring, the warm weather and new grass is punctuated by severe thunder storms and high winds. In summer, the abundant growth and pleasant long days are accompanied by sweltering heat. And in the fall, the welcome crisp air and the bountiful harvest brings along endless days of work and howling winds. They all have their blessings, and they all have their burdens. After living in the Midwest for ten years now, I have come to believe that each season hangs on just long enough for us to long for the next, even though we know that the coming season brings both good and hard.
And our ability to have joy in the midst of each is reliant on our focus- whether we can take comfort in the fresh spring grass, the long, playful days of summer, the campfires and garden salads of fall, and the crisp, fresh snow and rest of winter. Like roofing, it’s all in where you allow your gaze to fall.
And so it is with parenting. With each season of this journey there are crazy hard struggles and ridiculously fun blessings. With small infants there is cooing and fresh new smiles, the discovery of hands and feet, and small, quiet sighs to accompany sweet sleep….and sheer exhaustion, and the frustration of figuring out what this little person needs, and the giving up of your own desires to meet the needs of another, of dying to self daily, (or, more accurately, minute by minute). With fully mobile toddlers there are giggles galore, discovery of new words and climbing ev.er.y.thing and the ability to dismantle living-room furniture. There is imagination and hiding in closets, splashing bathtimes and snuggles with books before bed. And there are tantrums and willpower battles and the frustration (on both sides) of misunderstanding. There are strings of seemingless neverending messes. There are fingersmears on windows as you wash them.
With elementary-aged kids there is the joy of learning and reading and harnessing the power of their mind in new and fascinating ways. There are true conversations and new perspectives. There are helpers and extra hands. But there are also thoughtless mud-prints tracked in from outside and doors hanging open in the winter. There is subtle challenging and sophisticated arguing.
The truth? There is good and hard in each stage…in each day. And where we focus helps to determine our level of joy in the midst.
So, what then? We have to choose the lens and the direction of the camera. Maybe it will make you sound like Pollyanna- like you are in denial that anything is hard- or maybe people will think you were the only person alive who won the *perfect child lottery* (nope, sorry, not a real thing 🙂
But the truth is you have determined to gaze upon the view in front of you and not the view beneath you, and that gives you freedom to enjoy this place more fully. If we can discipline our minds to think on beauty it can transform the experience.
Yes, even as my husband stands high above safe ground, he has to remember the gravity of his position; the heightened awareness of this reality keeps his steps sure. As we prepare for winter we don’t dance into the season without heat available to ward off the cold. And we don’t ignore the struggles our kids have and pretend like they aren’t there.
But we can’t just dwell there for so long that we are robbed of the joy in the journey. Struggle is a reality of the process, not the extent of the experience.
If we have started feeling fearful, angry, exhausted, and overwhelmed with parenting…it might be because of where we are focusing. And maybe we need to do a better job of looking up. At any time we can start to look down, to fully realize where we are and start to let fear grip us into panic. It is totally natural. But it won’t give us strength. We have to fight for that with truth.