Every conscientious parent knows what it is like to feel exhausted and empty from continual grinding parenting, whether you’ve one child or ten. I remember feeling mind-numbingly tired, and seeing the dinner dishes still needing to be washed, and washing them, and it is close to midnight, and the baby is sick and crying and throwing up. And I am worried to death about the baby, and about my children having friends and finding God for themselves and learning to drive, and about the $200 million lawsuit waiting for me the next morning, and every morning, for years, and though the claims are specious, I still have to fight like my life depends upon it, for years and years. And somehow we make it through, and suddenly we are attending high school graduations and weddings and birthday parties for pure little grandchildren just learning to smile and to walk and to talk, and the children are moving away. I have raised seven children—and, of course, parents are never done being parents to their children. My mother raised six children, at the time of this 2022 writing aged 57 to 41, and at age 82 she has not stopped being a mother. Observing her children struggle with the challenges of parenthood, Mom related to me one late night in New Jersey, when she was still doing her household chores. The television was on, broadcasting a PBS symphony orchestra concert, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #1. The beauty of the music and the performance—the first movement—suddenly gripped her and washed through her, and she wept and wept as the music played beautifully on. She has forgotten the particular pains and worries of that day, but does remember that life was hard, and that she was feeling tired and overwhelmed and discouraged. But after this experience of being moved by music, she felt cleansed, renewed, strengthened, happier, and better able to carry on. The loads remained just as heavy and tiresome, but her ability to carry them had increased. Perhaps nothing is more important for a child than having parents who know how to renew their energy and strength so that they can again put on the parental yolk and redouble their efforts on behalf of those children. And in the meantime, crank up the Mahler.
(Pictured above: the Baker family, circa 1969, with yours truly at the keyboard.)
(Pictured below: a more recent gathering of the Baker clan.)