May 1, 2009

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Parenthood: The greatest exercise in human love

Patti LambMy friend is what I’d call a “planner.”

She amazes me with her keen eye for detail and her ability to quickly generate plans A, B and C for any situation.

She can contrive a makeshift umbrella out of a lens polishing cloth in her purse. There is nothing for which she is not prepared.

She is due to give birth any day now, and tells me she feels adequately prepared for motherhood.

After all, she has done her homework. Her baby’s nursery is painted flawlessly in a shade which, she tells me, is the most soothing color, according to leading child psychologists. All the baby clothes have been washed and arranged neatly by size and color in the dresser drawers. Even her stroller, she made certain, is rated with the highest safety award designation.

She will be using cloth diapers in an effort to do her part for the environment, and she is fully committed to a regimen of organic-only baby foods when her baby makes the transition to solids.

That last one put me over the edge.

“Honey, enjoy the orderliness while you can,” I thought to myself, “because parenthood is not so methodical.”

I thought about speaking up, but didn’t have the heart. There are some things you just can’t adequately describe to even the closest of friends. I let the moment pass without interruption. I let her revel in her glorious June Cleaver-like version of motherhood.

I bit my tongue when I wanted to talk about the real stuff—a colicky baby, meltdowns, sleep deprivation and

transitioning from marriage—just the two of us—to parenthood. Admittedly, however, I’m far from an expert.

I think being a parent is the greatest exercise in human love. The center of your universe shifts. The child becomes the nucleus. You’ve known love on so many levels but, when you have a child, that takes it to a whole new plateau.

The love of parents is, in my mind, the closest we come to beginning to understand the love of God. It is a love that is

unconditional, offering quick forgiveness and unwavering encouragement.

Even though our children can be difficult and frustrate us, we still love them in a way no one else could because they are ours. They are extensions of our very selves.

In essence, we say to them, “Even when you choose unwisely, look terrible or disappoint me, I will always love you. You are mine.”

Parents are called to be steadfast in the daily task of love.

For a child to know love of this caliber is more important than any material means which could be provided by the parent, mostly because real love is not fleeting. A son or daughter, whether age 5 or 50, never outgrows the love of the parents. Parenting is a great big lesson in love.

My dear friend, the greatest planner that I know, cannot prepare herself for the transformation of parenthood with any stroller or cloth diaper. It happens in the heart.

Next week will bring my friend’s first official Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day, dear friend. It may not be what you planned for. It’s not easy, and there’s no form of insurance you can purchase if it turns out differently than you expect.

But this much is certain: It’s all good.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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