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The true extreme sport is raising kids


Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.

Recently, my husband purchased a tub of peanut M&Ms from Costco (and by tub, I mean a container the size of a Buick). Thanks to an erstwhile friend whose name rhymes with Schmindy, we’ve become devotees of the chain. And by devotees, I mean “they who drop wads of cash even when they’re ‘only going in for three items.’”

Thanks a lot, Cin—uh, old friend.

Anyway. The other day, The Cub sauntered through the kitchen where I was working. “It’s nice to have peanut M&Ms to munch on again,” he said.

“Do you have a munching permit?” I queried.

“I thought you wanted me to gain some weight.” This, with a noisy chew and a swallow.

“Oh, that’s right. Munch on, bud.” And his skinny, cross-country-running buns disappeared up the stairs.

Raising kids, I have found is the true extreme sport. Forget triathlons, Iron Man competitions, or the Tour de France. This right here is where it’s at. If the kids you are growing are males, you learn that they aren’t actually boys. They’re food furnaces, and they land in your arms with a lifetime grazing permit clutched in a tiny, red fist. For the rest of your days, they will assume their default position whenever they come home, which is waist deep in the fridge.

Funny, how powerful those little humans are. Shocking, how naïve new parents are. No one tells you about all the other permits they show up with. We should’ve frisked them all in labor and delivery, but it was those little, blue eyes that derailed us. Saps that we were, by the time we figured it out, it was too late. We were in love.

One of the first permits you encounter is one called Sleep Disruption. They work it hard as newborns and toddlers. About the time you finally start sleeping like a baby yourself, they start driving. And again, you’re sleepless in Seattle.

There’s a permit, of course, that gives them access to your bank account. They need sneakers and braces and blue jeans and glasses and, well, they have your last name. They also have your blue eyes and your double crown, and doggone if you aren’t smiling as you open your wallet. That’s just how it works.

These young ruffians have permits to demand your time and energy, and vast amounts of both. They can commandeer your schedule—for years, and you keep on making the sacrifices. It’s all for love.

Put simply, our children hold the keys to our hearts. We hand them over willingly, and we invest our very souls into these humans that we’ve made. It is precisely because of this primal love that they have the power to break our hearts. I heard it again this week on the Rush Hour with Bo Snerdley.

A gentleman, Joe from Queens, called in. He shared the story of his son who’s been on drugs for 23 years. It was exacting an awful toll on the family, not just the addict, and I could hear the grief in his voice.

My heart went out to him, for we have walked a similar path. Our own son’s descent into the world of addiction was a long, nightmarish ride. It demanded far more than we thought we could give, for far longer than we dreamt we could endure. It stripped us to the bone.

“Making the decision to have a child—it is momentous,” said Elizabeth Stone. “It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

This is wholly true, and it means that for years, my heart, in the shape of our boy, walked through very dark and dangerous corridors. It walked through hell itself.

On this side of it, now, there are several things I know. First, the stripping that took place in our own lives was necessary. It invited my husband and I to shed so many things that needed to go. It refined us.

Second, we did not go through it alone. It was desperation that put our faith to the test and caused it to grow. It was hope that sustained us, and it was love that refused to let us give up. Faith, hope, and love saw us through.

Third, I found that all along, God was hearing and answering our prayers. The stories our son tells us now hold the incontrovertible proof of God’s active, often miraculous intervention in his life. When Father and Mother could not reach him, God could. And He did.

I write this today for the encouragement of other parents whose hearts are broken. If you do not yet have a faith that will carry you, I offer you a scrap of my own. After all, it only takes a piece the size of a mustard seed to move mountains.

With both of my hands, I hold out the three-fold cord that kept us from sinking:  faith, hope, and love intertwined. And take it from this caffeinated mom, “No matter how it looks, God is working. You keep praying.”

You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom every Saturday morning on 77 WABC with her friend, James Golden, aka Bo Snerdley. Together, they offer real encouragement to an ever-growing audience of listeners.

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