Missy has had nits.
I’ve dealt with a lot of grossness in my 5+ years as a mum: poo in epic proportions, wind which factors on the Richter scale, and vomit to make our house resemble a University halls of residence in Fresher’s Week. I’ve been drenched in wee, baby sick and blood; wiped noses, bottoms and other bits; exfoliated cradle cap and creamed delicate areas. But there is something about nits – live creatures roaming around the scalp – which brings all the usual kiddy grossness to a new level of Vile.
It wasn’t just Missy. I’ve had my fair share, and Mister also got infested. (That is the technical term. Urgh.) These nits were persistent little buggers, and took a few weeks to shift. There was shampooing, conditioning, HeadRin-ing, brushing and combing ad nauseum, and eventually – one Super Dupa Nit Comb later – we identified and drowned them all.
As I combed Missy’s hair for the umpteenth time, telly on in an attempt to keep her still for the required time, I thought I could really do without all this. I could do without taking an hour out of our day for this conditioning-combing-rinsing debacle. I could do without the argument which ensues beforehand, could do without trying to find a new way to entice Missy to come on board in this process, could do with this all being OVER.
And I realised that this is parenting. It is one, long series of sacrifices – and no option not to make them. Just as I had to keep combing and combing, so we keep parenting and parenting. We love it, and it carries with it great rewards, but it is also one sacrifice after another – too many to count, and, after a while, too many to notice. We sacrifice lie-ins, finished conversations, the state of our homes, our bodies, mealtimes, daytime naps, our appearance, our careers, money, food, the places we want to go, our dreams, ambitions, the option of having a glass vase on the floor, the bed-springs, sleep, a social-life. And these are only the sacrifices which have a name. Day by day, hour by hour, we parents are continually making decisions which put our offspring first.
And this is godly and Biblical. Read Philippians 2, for example. These are the loving sacrifices God has equipped us to make for the children He has given us to care for. Except.
Except that we cannot make these sacrifices when our own tanks are Empty. We just can’t. In order to give, give and give thousands of times a day, we must allow others to give to us without any sense of guilt or pride. Has God given you the money to pay for a cleaner? Use it. Has a friend offered to look after your kids for a couple of hours? Take her up. Spa day invitation? Go for it. Recognise these sweet moments as God’s grace to you. God’s gift of refuelled tank, ready for more sacrificial loving.
And also: we cannot make these sacrifices when our own identity is in question. The greatest sacrifice ever made – Jesus, on the cross, for us – came from a place of true identity. Jesus was truly secure in who he was, that he was God’s son, dearly beloved. We, too, are dearly beloved – our parenting successes and fails don’t ever change this reality. We are loved. Unconditionally, truly, deeply loved. And it is this love, with its deep roots in our lives, which will allow us to humbly make sacrifices for our children (even searching their heads for nits) – sacrifices which, we pray, will show them love. Our love, yes, but also one much deeper, stronger and more perfect than we could ever muster.
“…if [you have] any comfort from his love…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Ephesians 2:1-2)