Tomorrow, we’ll wake up, eyes reddened from interrupted sleep for yet another morning. Deep dreamtime is just that—a dream—when toddlers, infants, and babies dictate our daily rhythms. A child’s cooing, crying or screaming will stall our feeble attempts to snooze. Alarms are silly: the child is the rooster of modern life, and while we don’t curse the baby’s calls the way we could curse the fowl, we know a brief respite from our routine isn’t on the horizon. This is a thankless, unglamorous, and tiring part of life—the importance of this season, especially as we watch the prime of our adult lives go by, seems concentrated into the tiny beings that swarm about our homes. Is this really what we dreamed of when we dreamed of chubby cheeks, pitter-patter of footsteps, and nights spent nuzzled with a little child? Is this really what we hoped to be doing at the peak of our physical and intellectual power?
Believe it or not, my intent today is to lament the daily trials of parenthood. This reflection is actually about being bound to our children, timing ourselves to their rhythms, and learning to dance to their drumbeats however rapid and erratic they may be. This communion with chaos, I hope, points us to one conclusion: Children make us children again. Not children like we used to be when we daily erupted with volcanic energy and had zero need for quiet. No, we’re children because they make us act like them again, even as we maintain that we are adults. Need proof?
If you have an older toddler or kindergartner, I bet you’ve played hide-and-seek, tag, board games, parachute, or hopscotch in the past few weeks.
If you have a young toddler, I bet you’ve played with cars and trucks and planes, racing them on the imaginary hills, mountains, and deserts formerly known as pillows, sofas, and sandboxes.
With a young child, no doubt you’ve sat at a small table and played tea party or chef or builder. And don’t forget that you’re a builder of forts, securing their canopies perilously atop stools and chair-backs knowing full well it all comes crashing down.
If you have an infant, don’t tell me you haven’t whirred like an airplane, choo-choo’d like a train, or sounded something akin to a foghorn for the sake of persuading your little tyke to eat at the dinner table, run around on the playground, or sit still in the bathtub.
And if you have a mobile infant, you probably scoured for shiny shells, perfects nuts and acorns, or smooth rocks and pebbles right alongside your child.
So it looks to me like we’re kids again: we’re doing all the kid things that kids do. We participate in the mind and matters of a kid once again. It doesn’t thrill us like it does our children, but that’s okay because it serves a different purpose: This is God’s reminder for us to step back and see ourselves the same way we see our children.
We might hourly be engulfed in chaos and our dreams may turn nightmare by the end of a taxing day. Our expectations of children will never align with what we once naively imagined. But nevertheless, we are pleased that our children do all these chaotic and seemingly silly things, and we approve of it by participating in their daily ritual. Participating in child’s play helps us see that we are infinitely valuable no matter what we do. Why? Because whatever importance you ascribe to your life at present, you spent a decade of your life just playing among the trees, the acorns, and the fields. And you were no less important then than you are now.
We may be worn out from the grind of parenthood’s rhythms. We may engage in silly activities all day when we aspire to live what the world considers a successful life: you know, that success and achievement and glory nonsense.
But God has different designs in lifting up the weary and the lowly. You may in fact be at the most important juncture of your life, deep in the midst of the greatest conversion God has planned for you in your vocation. You are becoming a child again, and you are being prepared to become the perfect version of that: A child of God.