Home > Death, Family, Love, Parenting > The blessings in imperfect moments

The blessings in imperfect moments

I’m watching a blogging friend count down to the one-year anniversary of her baby son’s death.

As she posts images from this time last year, I feel simultaneously her love and her heartbreak. Those moments a year ago were hard, but not nearly as hard as what she couldn’t know was coming next.

I’ve wanted to write something about how her images of her little Georgie touch me. How I touch my phone’s screen, wishing I could touch him instead, and think how beautiful he was. How wrong and pointless and insufferable it is that his shining eyes shine no longer. That there is so much more beauty his eyes will never see.

I’ve wanted to write, but I didn’t really know what. I didn’t know until I read someone saying that parenting is hard … but then there are those days where you’re blessed and everything goes right.

I was floored by the juxtaposition–in my heart–of those words and Georgie’s image.

Parenting is hard. There are time and energy and all kinds of constraints you either know because you’re a parent or only think you can imagine if you’re not. You’ve just gotten the hang of managing a little human being when that little human goes and changes on you. Though his body changes physically, that’s not the change that challenges.

The change that challenges is emotional, mental, spiritual. As a parent, you only just figure out how to engage your little person in ways that make sense to them when they come into new feelings, new understandings, new wants. What worked to soothe a newly grown child yesterday no longer works today, so that you have to quickly learn a whole new language and set of tactics. You do so knowing that, soon enough, those, too, will be cast by the wayside in favor of fumbled-up new tactics you can’t imagine yet because your child isn’t there yet.

It’s hard, but it’s also beautiful. Not only when the kids are painting nicely together. Not only when there’s wonder, laughter, merriment and at least a dash of obedience. Not only when the stars align so that everything goes as planned. (Indeed, some plans are better failed.)



These parenting challenges are the challenges of having.

They’re the challenges of getting to see a child grow and learn and adapt and be all the kinds of wonderful and headstrong written into his DNA and heart. They’re the challenges of learning to count blessings, and to include among those blessings the things that don’t immediately seem like blessings.

He’s shouting because he’s learned he has a voice, and he knows it has power.

She’s crying because she’s lost a toy; though it’s “only” a toy, it’s a sign of a heart learning to love with increasing reach and decreasing ego.

He’s silent despite your entreaties not because he’s trying to punish you with sullenness, but because he’s trying to find the right words to explain what’s bothering him when he doesn’t yet understand it himself. In his silence is the dawning of understanding that will bring you closer in time.

When my son yelled “Do you love me?!” after an evening turned sour last week, I didn’t feel blessed. I felt tired and confused and upset. I tried to calm myself with a reminder:

Guiding him through [this roughness] is part of getting to experience [that joy].

I held tight to those words as I thought about everything I did not so skillfully that evening. I tried to feel them, but feeling them instead of merely saying them came the next morning, when I awakened and realized–with sweet clarity–it was okay. We’re growing together. Still.

The fact I didn’t feel the blessings the evening before didn’t mean they weren’t there. I just wasn’t able to see them. By morning’s light, I saw them so clearly: the blessings of self expression, dialogue, passion, learning, family, and love not dimmed or dampened by shouting. There are more, to be sure, but this is a sampling of some of those I found later.

Blessings are there in so many moments that only feel wasted. I want to learn to get better feeling blessings even in my discomfort, instead of only much later. I want to become adept spotting the blessings in imperfect moments, which far outweigh perfect moments in messy human life.

I fear that if I wait for perfect moments to feel blessed, I will lose almost a lifetime’s worth of blessings less evident in the mess and the maelstrom, but still profound. Still very much present.

I think of Georgie’s sparkling eyes and wish for him the chance to experience all the joy and mess that will surround me today, because they surround me every day.

I wish for his mom the chance to experience all of that with him: all of that growing, all of that changing, all of that learning new balance.

I ache that my wishes change nothing. There is nothing I could possibly do to change what’s already done.

I can only send my feebly expressed love out to the universe, and hope some fragment of it is felt despite my imperfect words …

… and try to remember that any day, every day, I have

with my sunshine, my David, my John,

is a day overflowing with blessings.

happy run

  1. June 14, 2015 at 4:39 am

    okay i am crying over here! We are blessed in every situation, it is up to us to find those blessings. You are right, we may not always feel blessed in the heat of the moment but as we reflect we can find that blessing. The new hospital that I work at has a children’s hospital which means I see the really ugly. Each day I remind myself of how blessed I am, even on the roughest of parenting days, and lately there have been plenty. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • June 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

      I’ll admit I had a hard time remembering when Li’l D was enraged at being expelled from bed (our nerve!), but I remembered pretty quickly after the car ride begin. Not perfect, but just fine all the same as I get better with practice! 🙂

  2. June 14, 2015 at 5:58 am

    This is lovely. The challenges of parenting come in many forms, and yet we are blessed to be part of them.

    • June 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

      I used to see “challenge” as kind of an ugly thing. Now I see it as an exciting opportunity: to see clearer, to work smarter, to grow in ways that the absence of challenge would never support. It’s good, too, because parenting really is full of challenges!

  3. June 14, 2015 at 7:15 am

    My daughter blessed her sheets, that I just washed yesterday, at about 2:00am. Then I blessed the washer with the sheets. Even in those moments the joy is in the seed of a memory and it will bloom into laughter when we look back. Nicely written.

  4. June 14, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I had a really challenging day with Peeper yesterday – one that was filled with what seemed like willful and messy disobedience, a skipped nap and a sick mama. This post reminded me to shift my own perspective. Maybe she was dumping her food on the floor because she’s testing out her independence and coloring on the chair to see what I’d do – the makings of a tiny scientist testing a hypothesis. I’ll try to keep this in mind the next time I feel my frustration bubbling over. Thanks Deb!

    • June 15, 2015 at 11:57 am

      “the makings of a tiny scientist testing a hypothesis” — YES! Also, these words sprang to mind and my smile (versus pulling out my hair) when dealing with frustrated J this morning.

  5. June 14, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    A powerful, moving post. I hope that your friend has (mostly) found a way to live with her loss. Grief has sharp and pointed teeth and sometimes savages us when we least expect it. And somedays (like anniversary days) when we know it will and are powerless to avoid it.

    • June 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      I think writing helps her with that, as much is it can be helped. I can’t begin to imagine living her loss, but am glad for her words allowing me to see a little more clearly … and thus move further away from becoming someone who disappears into the woodwork after another’s unimaginable grief. I have read of many such disappearings, and each breaks my heart.

  6. June 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Such a moving post, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes (not an easy feat). Thank you for giving me something to keep in mind as I start another week with the kiddos. ❤

  7. June 14, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This post comes at the right time. As pain and fear threaten to engulf tonight, I have to remember that my two beautiful, wonderful children are sleeping next door, healthy as can be, and there couldn’t be any greater gift… Thanks for the post. x

  8. June 15, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Lovely words, and what a fabulous picture!

  9. June 15, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Oh, Deborah, thank you so much for writing so tenderly you about my boy. Yes, parenting is hard but as you say, the absence of those hard parenting moments is even harder. I often think and know that if Georgie has lived, we would have been a “normal” family, with all the daily struggles, sleepless nights and short fuses. But oh, how I wish those moments were ours! The ordinary is extraordinary in the light of tragedy. Hugs and thank you very much, once again!xx

    • June 15, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing pieces of your time with Georgie. My longing to hold him as he beams despite his tubing and surroundings is overwhelming, as is my incredulity at the reality of his absence now.

      To know this is only the tiniest fragment of what you feel floors me and makes me wish, so much, I had more than words. But words are important, and I am moved by your words and memories. I am so grateful for you, and will forever hold Georgie lovingly in my heart. xx

  10. June 15, 2015 at 10:44 am

    beautiful. just beautiful. xo

  11. June 16, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Beautiful sentiments. Thank you for sharing this reminder with us — and may your friend be eased in her grief, over time.

  12. June 16, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    You have a healthy perspective and you’ve shared it so sensitively. Too many people get mired down in their own particulars to even notice other’s pain and loss. I’m so deeply sorry to hear of this mother’s devastating loss. I can’t imagine there’s anything more painful than losing a child. ox

  1. June 15, 2015 at 7:27 pm

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