We all have this beautiful picture of parenthood. Kids smiling. Families laughing. Wildflowers and butterflies.
But life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to. My plan for parenting has taken many turns I didn’t expect. Sick kids. Hospital stays. Bullies. Sibling bickering. And where are the butterflies?
The biggest unexpected twist came when we had to parent through loss, trauma, and tragedy. Our home was destroyed in a California wildfire last summer and we lost everything. We were homeless with three kids and four dogs. We, quite literally, had nothing.
The weeks following the fire were the most difficult of my life. Not only did I have to manage getting myself through tragedy, but we had three small children who needed our help.
We had many hard days. Our kids missed their toys. They couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just go home. They would ask to wear clothes we no longer had. They wanted to sleep with stuffed animals that now rest in toy heaven. We had to live in a hotel room for two weeks and then had to move from rental to rental. Life was often chaotic and stressful.
But we got through it. I am often asked how we helped our kids through such a difficult experience. In all honesty, we just parented the best we could. We let them be sad. We let them miss their toys. We didn’t try to fix every sad emotion they had. We talked through the pain and hugged out the tears. We replaced the things we could, fully knowing that most of what we lost can never ever be replaced.
We parented through tragedy. We showed our kids the ashes that remained of our home. We allowed them to put handprints in the concrete when the new home construction began. We showed them how community comes together to help. We let them see how, when tragedy strikes, goodness and hope will always prevail. We didn’t let sadness take over and win. We turned tragedy into triumph.
Parenting through difficult times is a million times harder than parenting already is. Whether it’s loss, difficult diagnoses, brokenness, or any other struggle that life throws our way. It is hard. But the difficult times do not have to win.
We can choose to fight through the pain and give our kids the beautiful gift of resilience. We can help make them stronger. We may not always be able to parent with laughter and butterflies, but we can parent with hope. Hope will always win.