The Huffington Post blog had a post yesterday entitled “10 Ways Living With a Toddler Is Like Being in Prison.” Yes, it was mildly humorous, and yes, some of the sentiments will resonate with parents of children of that age, and yes, there is some comfort in sharing stories and jokes about our kids to reinforce that it ain’t just my kid that is doing some crazy, headache-inducing stuff.
The Catholic blogosphere has been abuzz lately about comedian Jim Gaffigan, who publicly admits to being Catholic and to being unapologetic about having five kids. (For my money, Brian Regan is preferable; clean and clearly loves his wife and kids as does Jim, but is slightly funnier.) The bulk of the kid-related humor of both Jim and Brian is the combination of difficult and just plain weird situations in which a parent finds himself. So, I get it; it’s comforting, fun, and funny to make jokes about how raising kids is hard.
I’m sure I’m being too sensitive, but comparing life with a toddler to life in a prison, even in jest, is sadly unsurprising in a culture that shows diminishing respect for and enjoyment in children. From little annoyances like “We can’t go to the movies tonight because we can’t find a sitter” to the horror of abortion, children are increasingly frowned upon as interrupting the aspirations (be it work, entertainment, or even sleep) of the adults who care for them.
To summarize, raising kids is difficult because they are selfish, loud, always right in their own minds, needy, and thankless; parenting these little beings requires heroic effort and selflessness from we adults. It’s hard not to see the parallels between this and the relationship between us and God. Am I less selfish, thankless, and self-righteous than my four-year-old in terms of my relationship with God? Hardly. And yet God, Abba, parents me with none of the exasperation and all of the mercy that I fail to exhibit.
I’m sure God (and my wife?) could come up with “10 Ways Living with Tim Shaughnessy is Worse than Being in Prison,” but He just doesn’t think that way because there isn’t an ounce of pride or selfishness in Him. For God, the great good of union with the best of who we are, of being with us as He made us to be, far exceeds the pain of putting up with our sinfulness. He wants us to repent, just as I want our sons to stop jumping on the couch, but He models for us the mercy and forgiveness that all parents should show to their children. Because the Holy Trinity is the model on which human families are based (even families with rambunctious toddlers), life with children sanctifies us. No one ever said sanctification was easy, but better to compare it to a masseuse rubbing out knotted muscles to their original shape than to a prison cell.
And so, in that spirit, here is my list of 10 Ways Living with a Toddler is Supremely Awesome:
- You toughen up the skin on your elbows and knees from playing on the floor with them.
- You build up cardiovascular endurance as you run laps around the house being the Tickle Monster to one child while holding the other child on your hip.
- You develop incredible sleight-of-hand skills, making the object of a sibling scuffle magically disappear after a brief redirection.
- You are introduced to unique names, like the names my son gave to his virtual hamsters (phonetically spelled as “Ajee,” “Ajudah,” and “Athee”), or the middle name he suggested for a possible baby sister: “Shirkee.”
- You increase your agility maneuvering through playground equipment at top speed.
- You improve your apologetic skills by having to explain just how strong God is, how tall He is, and how fast He could fly if He wanted to but that He doesn’t really need to fly.
- You understand the incredible mercy of God and what it means to forgive “seventy times seven times.”
- You realize the significance of job, reputation, and bank account mean nothing compared to the joy of being united as a family in heaven.
- Your child tells you at Mass that he wants to receive Jesus into his tummy, too.
- You hear an unsolicited “I love you, Dada!”
Feel free to add more in the comments section.
Bonus #11. You become bilingual, trilingual, or (however many kids you have)-lingual. The word “water” can be translated as “wa wa wa” or “oho.” “Milk” is “bop” or “mit.” “Helicopter” is “no-doggies.” And “Grandpa” is “Batman.”