The past couple of weeks one of the neighbor boys came over to play almost every day. Earlier this afternoon I heard him in the street and thought he was on his way, but he never came.
Later, while we were playing outside I looked up and saw my two boys standing on the fence, peeking over to the other side. The neighbor boy and another local boy – I’m not sure if it was just a friend who came over for the day or one of our new neighbors – were driving up and down their short side-street in a shiny electric car, singing and dancing to music blaring from the speakers.
It’s the first time I clearly recognized that look in my four-year old’s eyes. Wanting what someone else has – or appears to have. He stood on the fence for a long time, long after the little one lost interest. Our big backyard lay empty behind him, the tree he was just happily climbing in long forgotten. The pup came and crawled up in my lap.
I wished I could shelter him from these feelings, these longings, and the inevitable disappointments waiting in the future. I sat there wondering how to explain all the reasons why I’m not going to allow him to just run off into the street, to go ‘dance with his friend’.
But in the midst of this vulnerable moment, a question caught me off guard. “How much time do I spend every day, standing on the fence?”
Maybe not the fence of our backyard, because the days are long gone when all we could possibly desire was only on the other side of the fence.
How much time do I spend peeking over the ‘fence’, thinking it sure looks like more fun to be on the other side… of the world, of the screen, of a messy and exhausting season of motherhood?
I should know by now that I am only seeing a very small glimpse of other people’s reality. I don’t know the full story behind the ‘shiny car’, the curated Instagram posts, the parenting challenges waiting in seasons beyond dirty diapers.
What if every second I spend on the fence is a moment of missing the beauty in my own backyard? The slow growth happening in the messy middle, where specks of gold and freshly planted seeds still lie hidden beyond the dirt.
I am so quick to forget the nature of these fences I sometimes use to stand on, but more often use to hide behind or keep others out.
What if, for someone else, I am the one on the other side of the fence?
The more I think of my boy standing on that fence, the more I get this sense of the Father’s eyes on me. His heart for me, after years of walking in faith and most days still acting like a spiritual toddler with FOMO (fear of missing out).
I suspect one of the greatest gifts of parenthood is understanding a little more of the Father’s heart. Although He is infinitely more gracious and patient than we could ever dream to be.
Would it not delight His heart if I could see beyond the surface? If I was not blinded by all the fun and shiny things I think I want, mostly because it looks like the best thing in the moment?
Imagine I could get a glimpse of the bigger picture instead. Get off the fence with a renewed sense of purpose to appreciate the gifts, and the struggles I’ve been given in this season. There sure is plenty of room to grow into someone who can rejoice with those who received good gifts, while at the same time learning how to open up my doors to those who also need to see the mess and the struggle and the process, to hear the full story – even if it’s just to know that they are not alone.
Not alone in motherhood, in cross-cultural life… or in this not-so-glamorous season of life.
Are you standing on a fence of some kind? What is the Father teaching you about parenting, or being His child in this season?