Michelle Martin

Time to make donuts

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A long time ago, Dunkin Donuts had an ad campaign featuring a very tired baker whose sleep was interrupted at all hours because it was time to make the donuts.

That’s a lot like raising kids. It’s always time to do something — even if it’s not making donuts. It’s time to wake them up, to make breakfast, to take them to school when they are older. It’s time to feed them, to change them, to rock them and to read to them when they are younger.

That’s probably why several studies — most dating from the early 2000s –— found that parents report lower levels of happiness, marital satisfaction and mental well-being than nonparents. I don’t have any problem believing that. But I wouldn’t give up any one of my kids.

It comes back to what I often tell them — at least the older two. Almost anything worth doing, anything that will make you feel proud or accomplished or on top of the world, is hard. You want to be in musical theater, a triple threat who can sing and dance and act? Then get ready to work as hard as you ever have, and then work harder. You want to become a better hockey player? Then work hard enough in practice that you get past your comfort level. You don’t get better by coasting.

I don’t really have to tell Tess — all babies and toddlers seem to know this instinctively. How many times do they fall down while they are learning to walk? How often do they struggle to communicate what they want as they learn to speak? It’s hard, and sometimes it isn’t fun.

It’s better, I think, if things don’t come too easily. Students who always get good grades without a lot of effort can be flummoxed when they run across something that they don’t get without studying. They are tempted to give up too soon, to say “I’m just not good at” spelling or math or geography.

But the results of putting in the work are so worth it. For kids, maybe its getting the role they want, or scoring in a game or getting a better grade than they thought they could get.

For parents, it’s learning about their son’s generosity to another child — generosity that their son didn’t mention, because he didn’t think it was any big deal. It’s knowing that a big sister will look out for a little brother on the way home from school, because he’s her brother and she loves him even if they don’t always get along. It’s as small as realizing the baby finally went to sleep, so you can too.

I think God gets this. He made us; he knows how parents love their children. According to the Gospels, he loved his Son too, and was proud of him. He told everyone gathered at the Jordan River “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17) after Jesus was baptized.

My children bring me hours of work (and yes, reminding them to pick up their toys/books/dirty clothes off the floor, which takes far longer than it would take me to do it myself, counts as work), and not all of it is fun.

They also bring moments of pure, unadulterated joy, not to mention fun and laughter.

Am I happier than I would be without children? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be who I am now without them. But I do know my life is more joyful with them in it. Even if it’s always time to make the donuts.