During pregnancy it feels like you are making your way to the starting gate and finding your position. When your child is born it feels like the starting gun has been fired, and you are off and running. And at first it’s like a sprint—pushing hard to stay awake, giving it all we’ve got to provide the most loving care, and focusing all of our energy on our little ones.
Sprint mentality works for issues that seem to have an end like colic, sleeping through the night, or potty training that resolve after a few weeks or months. They are not easy but they do have an end.
But for those of us whose children face bigger, more complex or longer lasting issues whether physical, mental or emotional, we quickly realize that our sprint mentality is not going to cut it. It wasn’t until my daughter was thirteen that I finally had to admit that we were not one new strategy away from an answer, one new pill away from a cure, or one more therapy appointment away from healing. We had entered a marathon and I was going to need to think and act differently for this type of parenting challenge.
Having run a marathon several years ago, I find that the long distance strategies that I learned back then are helpful in adjusting my mindset.
1. Slow down. If you’ve been hurriedly or frantically looking for a solution to your child’s problem and haven’t found an answer, it may mean that you will have to live with this thorn in your side for years to come. This is your new normal so you’ll need to slow down, pace yourself and conserve your energy for the road ahead. Your goal in this type of endurance race is more about progress than completion so give yourself permission to slow down.
2. Have a snack. You would never stop to refuel during a sprint, but when running a marathon, you have to eat and drink along the way or you will run out of steam. I will never forget the women handing out oatmeal cookies at mile marker 14. At first I thought, “A cookie? Are you kidding, I’m racing!”, but I came to my senses when I remembered the 12 miles I still had yet to run and I grabbed a cookie, two actually. In addition to caring for your child, take good care of yourself with sleep, good nutrition, and exercise that will sustain you for the long journey ahead.
3. Take a break. When I trained for my marathon I used a specific method that advocated regular walk breaks throughout the race. I’d run 1 mile then walk for 1 minute, repeating that pattern over and over again. In the beginning it felt ridiculous because I wasn’t that tired, but as the race wore on I found that walking helped break up the monotony of a long race and kept me from the fatigue and exhaustion experienced by the other runners. Do not be afraid to take breaks from managing your child’s issue. It will be there when you get back.
4. Enjoy your fellow runners. You may have had to drop everything to deal with a crisis with your child, but it’s important, over the long haul, not to neglect the other members of your family. Take them on dates and give them your undivided attention. Schedule fun activities to bring balance back into your family. The needs of your other children or your spouse may seem minor compared to the issues of your more complex child, but they need and deserve your attention too.
We cannot always see the finish line when it comes to parenting our children.
He knows what tomorrow looks like and what each day holds.
As you slow down, snack, take breaks, and enjoy your family look to God for the power and patience to sustain you through the marathons of parenting journey.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
By Dale Skram
Mom of four
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
real.life.speaker, real.faith.writer, and real.life.coach