“You’re doing great.”
My wife and I looked at the emergency room doctor through bleary eyes. Hours before, our pediatrician had told us to check our 7-month-old into the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. A panicked race through downtown traffic, a couple hours of nervously waiting in the lobby, and one quick check-up later, our looks of confusion must have been obvious, because the doctor repeated herself.
“You’re doing great. There’s nothing to worry about. He just has a stuffy nose, but I’m glad you brought him in.”
We certainly didn’t feel like great parents at that moment. Our minds were on the ever-increasing piles of dishes, laundry, and trash accumulating at home. We hadn’t vacuumed in weeks (months?), the baby needed a bath (and so did we), both of us were behind on work, and more hospital bills were looming in our minds. Yet, through the chaos, that phrase stuck with us. It suggested that, just maybe, parenting is less about having our lives together and more about the way we do life together.
Daily, we're bombarded with hundreds of “tips” for parenting. These come from family, friends, blogs, and at times even strangers. Parents are handed the greatest responsibility on earth, and then told repeatedly how they ought to be handling it. Even well-intentioned tips for parenting can feel overwhelming. Everyone has their own idea of what a great parent looks like, and it feels like we can never live up to it all.
Jesus’ disciples weren’t overly concerned with parenting, but they were extremely concerned with being great. In fact, two of them, James and John, asked that Jesus would make them His seconds-in-command when He became king. They wanted to be greater than the others, to prove that they were closest to Jesus.
Today, many people share the same mindset as James and John. They believe that to be great, they must be better than someone else. Their requirement to be a great parent? They just have to be a better parent than you, and it feels like they will go a long way to prove it.
James and John didn’t get their wish for greatness. Instead, Jesus told them: “Anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). Jesus’ definition of greatness hinged on one factor: Service.
Being a great parent isn’t about having the laundry done or the dishes washed or about your kid getting less screen time than their peers. It’s not about diet, sickness, GPA, or successful parent-teacher conferences. It’s about serving.
That’s why I can write this to you: You’re doing great.
Every time you put your child’s needs before your own, you’re doing great.
Every time you get the dishes done, you’re doing great.
Every time you forgo doing the dishes to spend time with your child, you’re doing great.
Every time you wake up at 3 am to calm a wailing infant, you’re doing great.
Every time you comfort your child when they're sick, you’re doing great.
Every time you play pretend with your child, you’re doing great.
Every time you choose to forgive when you could punish, you’re doing great.
Every time you show your child love, you’re doing great.
Every time you choose to encourage when you could criticize, you’re doing great.
With every meal you make, every face you wipe, every diaper you change, every time you listen—you’re doing great.
Every day you parent, you’re doing something great. So, keep it up.