Michelle Martin

Every day

Sunday, March 6, 2016

As I write this, it will soon be 4 p.m., otherwise known as the time my husband and I look at each other and say, “What are we going to make for dinner?”

Because that’s the thing about having kids. They expect you to feed them. Every day.

Sure, sometimes my older kids feed themselves, either making something to eat if they get hungry before we come home from work or eating with friends when they are out and about. But if they haven’t eaten yet, and it starts to move from afternoon to evening, they look at us and say, “What’s for dinner?”

Don’t even ask about Teresa. She doesn’t just expect us to cook for her; she wants us to cook with her. That means a process that I could handle on my own in half an hour or less will take at least 50 percent longer, just to move things to the table where she can reach them, to explain how to stir gently or to bread the chicken pieces, to wipe up the inevitable spills. She doesn’t even think about whether her laundry is done and she has a clean uniform for school the next day. Nope, that’s our job too.

And no matter what, when it comes time to pick her up from school, either I or my husband has to drop what we’re doing and make sure we’re outside the school door. It’s never even crossed her mind that one of us wouldn’t show up to get her when we’re supposed to — most often waiting for the door to open and the kindergartners come tumbling out.

And that’s a wonderful thing.

To see her face light up when she sees us, to know that she trusts in us so much that it’s just a given in her life that we will be there for her, that’s what the daily grind of making lunches and washing dishes and going to the grocery store is about.

Study after study has shown that parents, especially parents of young children, have less happiness than people without children. They’re too busy running errands and cleaning up messes and explaining why we don’t get a new toy every time we go to the store.

But parents also report that they feel their lives have more meaning, and their moments of happiness seem to increase as their children get older and need less help with basic self-care. I, for one, will do a happy dance the day Teresa learns to consistently buckle her own seatbelt.

Think about what this means for a God who identifies himself as our father, who encourages us to think of ourselves as his children. A father feeds his children, cares for them, helps them do things over and over and over until they get it right, and does it all because he loves it when they come running toward him, happy and excited to get a hug and talk about everything they’ve done.