Little David, one of the two precious toddlers I’m caring for at the orphanage, really tries my patience sometimes. My biggest struggle with him is during lunch time. For whatever reason, he often does not want to eat at this time. He starts to play with his food, I take it away and ask if he is done, he whines, I give it back and tell him to eat. Then at some point in this little game, he deliberately puts his whole hand into his bowl and grabs his food and tries to fling it on the ground. He knows this is wrong. I’m not proud to say that usually at this point, I completely lose it. I rip his bowl out of his hands, slap his hand, yell “NO!” and then proceed to violently clean the mess and make him sit in his high chair until I am done. Then I feel mad at myself, because I have lost my patience and my temper. I feel like I have failed at my role as his caregiver. But today, I actually won the battle with patience for once. When David shoved his whole hand in the bowl again today, I kept my cool. I took the bowl away, held his hands until he looked at me, and said calmly but firmly, “No. That’s not okay,” and then slapped his hand. It felt so calm and controlled, and I think it was more effective too. He stuck out his bottom lip and was quiet for a minute. He knew he had disobeyed. And I just felt like maybe I am finally starting to learn. Maybe I am finally getting better at this.
For most of the nearly three months I have been here, I have felt so unbelievably inept at this task of caring for children! I have felt like such a failure. I have been impatient, ill-tempered, irritable, tired, and sloppy. I have doubted God’s calling on my life to work with orphans. I have started to wonder if he brought me here to show me that I am not cut out to work with children. But I do not think that is the case at all. I think raising children is one of the hardest tasks on earth, and of course I am going to make mistakes! I am not always going to be that perfectly patient, calm, put-together person. Some days, it is all I can do to get through the day. But I do think God has gifted me in the area of child care. I think maybe I need to be more patient and gracious with myself. Overall, David and the other toddler, Silaa, are very well-behaved for their age. They are definitely very sweet. David likes to give kisses, and it just melts any frustration that was there a moment ago. The house stays pretty clean regardless of my “I just don’t care today” days. So I think I am doing okay. Even so, though I realize these three months are only a very small taste of what it will be like to be a parent, I am more sure than ever before that I am not ready to be a mom.
And through all of this, I am once again reminded of God’s heart towards us. I was reading this blog post from a mom about why parenting is the hardest job in the world. She writes all these reasons of why it is so hard, and the last reason is love. She writes, “Love is what makes you put up with the power struggles, the endless variations of crying and whining, the constant physical and emotional upheaval children bring to your life. . . . That heart-swelling, earth-shattering, all-consuming love for your kids is what creates the challenges of parenting, yet makes them all worthwhile.” How like God to give the majority of people on earth a job that brings them closer to understanding his heart than perhaps anything else. A job that receives no payment and almost no recognition, yet drives you on tirelessly. Just like you cannot force a child to obey you, so God has given us free will. And he is eternally patient with us through all of our tantrums, all of our blame-games, all of our disobedience. He does not lose his temper or have “I just don’t care today” days. There is no level of disobedience that can cut us off from his love. This love parents have for their children drives them to keep caring for them, through every struggle. And this love, I think, that is the closest understanding we can have as humans to the depth of God’s love for us.