This life offers us so very much.
It is sometimes perfect and sometimes painful. And, most often, both at the same time. The same day, the same moment, even. Our babies do something so adorable it makes us ache, moments later they arch their backs and scream until they’re blue. They whack us in the face or throw watermelon on the floor.
And we are left wondering why orphanages aren’t a thing anymore.
Years ago, an older fellow in our parish, looking at our herd of littles, said something that has always stuck with us. “Little children, little problems. Big children, big problems.”
Now perhaps he simply meant that big children cause a lot of problems. But I don’t think so. I think what he really meant was firstly, to keep those exhausting problems of small children, the tantrums, the sticky hands, the wiggle, the whining – in perspective.
They feel like a big deal. But they really aren’t. Not even problems, really, just irritations.
Profound irritations. But when big children have problems, teen problems, young adult problems…they are REAL LIFE problems. Our children aren’t going to have a tantrum when they have a college paper due. They aren’t going to ask someone to marry them when their hands are sticky. Their boss is not going to have to tell them to sit still, and they aren’t going to whine at the doctor when he hands them a prescription.
Everything is going to be okay.
Big children problems are the very same problems we face as adults. Anxiety, depression. What to do with our lives. Criticism. Body image. Not enough time. Tough choices. Big responsibilities. Addiction. Relationships. Sometimes everything is not going to be okay. Sometimes hard and scary.
And it’s hard to see our children suffer through the problems of blossoming adulthood.
How much support to give? How much advice? When to intervene, when to wait it out. Where to turn for help.
What did I do wrong?
What DID I do WRONG?
Believe me, my friends, there is no comprehensive manual for how to negotiate the problems your coming of age children may have. We would die for them, to save them. But our heroism rarely needs to come in the form of taking a bullet for another, or jumping in front of a moving vehicle to push them to safety.
Yes, we donate our lives for their sake. But rarely the whole thing at once. We donate our hearts, one little piece at a time. We would rather rip it out and give it to them whole to make their lives better. But we can’t.
We can be with them through their difficulty, distress and despair. We can be with them.
Hold your babies close. Even the big ones.