Here I was thinking that my kids were the ones doing the learning and growing. It turns out that while I was busy trying to mold them into the best versions of themselves, they’ve unknowingly been doing the same for me. The experience of parenting has been slowly and dramatically changing the person that I am. They are making me better. Here’s how:

I have questioned my worthiness.

I have been entrusted with the most amazing people in the world. I worry constantly that I’m not good enough. But if I question my worthiness, they will question theirs and I have no doubt they are worthy. So, I must be too. I have to remind myself of this often.

I have found energy and stamina that I never knew I had.

Before kids, I had a full-time job, many hobbies, demolition style house projects, date nights, long vacations but really, I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t know tired. I didn’t know long days. I didn’t know how strong I was until I became a parent. Even when my well is dry, I drop the bucket back in and pull out just enough compassion, patience and energy to make it to bedtime. The number of times that I have felt too tired to go on and managed to do so anyway is astonishing.

Nothing grosses me out anymore.

Nothing. I have cleaned poop from walls, clothing, car seats, bathtubs. I’ve picked it up with my bare hands and carried it to the toilet. I’ve even laughed about it. I’ve wiped blood from the noses and knees of my hurt babies with only the thought of comforting and never with the worry of ruining my clothes. As for bugs and lizards, well, they are a regular part of my daily experience.

I have re-evaluated everything I thought I knew about people.

I see now that they can’t be categorized into neat little boxes. We are all fantastically different, beautiful and misunderstood. Nothing about us is black and white.

I have come to know the necessity of grace.

It’s moved from an abstract idea that is sung about in church and preached from the pulpit to a daily practice extended to strangers, my children and most importantly, myself. Without grace, I wouldn’t make it through the day intact. I’d be swallowed by guilt and shame, worry and regret. Instead, I throw grace around like pennies into a wishing well.

I have found the need to get lost in something other than parenting.

Writing, yoga, meditation, sex, silence anything that reminds me that I’m more than a mother. I worry that I will wither away without these things.

I have realized that the little things are the things.

The beauty of parenting is in the small moments. the dance parties and wrestling matches, kid st‌yle jeopardy at dinnertime, movie nights with pillow palates on the floor, the way my daughter sings baa baa black sheep, the soft sound of my son’s breath. the tired look on my husbands face. I look for these things all day long. They sustain me.

I’m grateful for everything.

Healthy kids because they aren’t always. Unhealthy kids because I love them no matter what. My friends who were great before but are literally my lifeline now. Enough money to feed my family and keep the electricity on and pay for the house that hides all the yelling and the mess from the neighbors. The end of the day and the morning. All of the cute words and the very rare silence.

I’d have loved breastfeeding while longing to have my body back. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for what my body can do while hating being pregnant. I am grateful they can dress themselves, use the potty by themselves, bathe themselves while being a little sentimental that they no longer need my help. They’re getting bigger but that means those chubby cheeks and sweet little lips are disappearing. Parenting is a crazy paradox.

I suspected before, but now I know that love is everything.

How have your kids changed you?

Featured Photo Courtesy: Bekah Russom