Kids are bleeding hard work, I don't care who they are or who you are. They are tough.
I am greatly, richly blessed beyond words to have my children and I would not be without them for all the world, but they do my head in and therein lies an enduring contradiction.
My children have, in the space of only the past few days, hit my wife, gone to the shops on their own in their pyjamas while Sal was asleep, stolen from us, lied to us, been mean to each other, hidden our things in their rooms, made a mess of the walls, threatened other children and painted my bedroom door handle. Yet, I love them. Unfailingly, unconditionally, completely.
I WISH that they would do as they are told, stay in bed once I've tucked them in, honour and respect me and their mother, take care of their rooms and our house and generally do themselves justice, but I'm not going to stop loving them in the meantime.
I have to believe that they will turn out alright, that they fundamentally understand the difference between right and wrong and will get there in the end. I know we seek to instill godly values and virtues in them and confront and deal with errant behaviour rather than indulge it.
It helps me to reflect that God must feel the same way about me as I do about them. God must wish I would do myself a favour and honour him, living up to what I know he has for me. God must be constantly exasperated at how hard I make life for myself with all of my disobedience, laziness and failings. But he loves me anyway. Boy, does he love me. He loved me before he even made me and he saw everything I would ever do wrong before he decided to come to earth to die for me. And he went through all of that, knowing I would constantly reject him, fail him and fight him.
It can be and often tends to be a pretty thankless job being a parent. Our children can be so infuriating and yet I know that there are so many who have either lost their children, or whose children are suffering with serious illness, or who have been unable to have children, who would trade places with me in an instant and would scream at me to count my blessings and cherish every moment with them.
I don't think I'll cherish finding a staple gun under my daughter's bed, or having to replace a pane of glass in my back door, or wondering where I'll find the money for a new lounge carpet. But I do love my children. I cherish their smiles. I cherish the hugs I get when I come home from work, the time I spend reading to them and praying with them at bedtime. I cherish the smiles on their faces when they tuck into a home-made milkshake and their laughter when they parp in the bath.
I'll blog shortly on each of my gorgeous children, to remind myself of their lovely qualities. In the meantime, for every struggling parent out there, which at times is all of us, it will get better. Persevere and enjoy the glimmers. Cherish the moments and remember those rather than the image of your 4-year old trudging off in his slippers to cross a busy road for a bag of chocolate stars.