The Dance of Parenthood


It begins like a slow dance or ballet. The music is beautiful and haunting. That baby we take home from the hospital, from the orphanage, or from the foster care system comes into our lives, and while everything changes it’s a slow change. We have anticipated this for a long time. The baby blankets and onesies are purchased and waiting. We have bought or borrowed a crib for the little one. The curtain goes up and the ballet begins.

Every movement of that first baby feels recorded in our hearts and memories, it seems like forever. The first smile, the day they sleep through the night, their eating, pooping, sleeping habits all weave their way into our lives.

As another child comes the music changes and the slow dance stops, replaced by the chicken dance where there’s little grace, just a lot of squawking and moving. It’s fun but it’s exhausting.

Middle years are the Macarena and Bollywood. There’s a rhythm and grace and fun. You got this thing. You can criticize other parents because wow – your kids are amazing and their kids? Better beware because they are headed straight to the state penitentiary by way of the principal’s office. But not yours. Oh. No. Yours are amazing and talented and oh you are so thankful for Grace. The Grace given to you of course – not that bestowed on others.

Every parent thinks they dance well during the middle years!

And then the teen years come and you bow humbly even as the dance changes from the Macarena and Bollywood (which you love) to that of rock and roll where your head is splitting and you don’t understand the words but you think you caught a swear in there. It’s so fast you are spinning. The activities, the angst, the long talks punctuated by angry silence, the fun yet exhausting dance of rock and roll.

And then comes parenting adult children. 

And suddenly it all changes. It becomes like jazz music: you agree on the notes and then you improvise. Negotiation becomes a key word. The parental dance goes back and forth between being too worried and too involved and throwing your hands up saying “well, it’s their life!” But even thought you throw those words around, you are always there waiting. When the text comes at midnight you hear the buzz. When the call comes in early morning hours you know to take it. When they make decisions you disagree with, you know that you still love them and will love and pray for them until the day you die.

Slow jazz constantly in the background but no longer a central part of your life. The furniture is rearranged and the house echoes with empty. You miss them deep in your soul, but you know you’ve raised them with wings to fly and they are exercising those wings well.

There are times when you pour over photo albums and you remember when they were so little. And you think “I thought they were so big. I expected so much out of them.” But you realize now that they were so little and the world was so big.

And though the dance has changed so dramatically through the years, you pray that even as you occasionally stumble and fall you will dance every step with grace. 

What dance of life are you currently in? What dance of parenthood?

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14 thoughts on “The Dance of Parenthood

  1. My house is echoing with empty right now but, as you so poignantly point out, we’ve raised them with wings to fly. It’s only because we’ve done our jobs well, that they are able to be independent. So I keep telling myself this empty house means success! But I am blessed to still be getting texts and Skype calls, asking for advice, just wanting to chat. Those give me such joy. What a beautiful post, Marilyn! You always have just the right words.


    1. I love that you are getting the skype calls for advice and chats! It makes the empty not quite so empty. I’d love to hear more how you negotiate that across the world from each other. Do you have set times or do you just let it happen as it happens? I’m realizing more and more that it takes effort to make sure we continue to keep in touch and communicate. Otherwise life goes full blast. Thank you for the lovely words as well.


      1. Some of it is catch-as-catch-can. Especially the iMessage/text chats on our phones. But sometimes we make dates for Skype chats. The hardest part is managing the time difference. We Skyped more when I still lived in KL because when I was up in the morning with my coffee, they were still up at night working on school projects. In Dubai, we generally chat on weekends because I’ll stay up late and they can sleep in. All part of the dance!


  2. A couple of thoughts from the Great-Grandma perspective:
    Each time we birth a child, that little person becomes a lifelong prayer challenge. At some point in those middle years when I was feeling really discouraged and weighed down with the sheer hard work of raising 5 kids, their Dad reminded me that with each one we have at least an 18 year responsibility of caring and praying. Some days and years would be hard, but we always have to remember the joys, too. The praying will not end as long as I live.
    Even before that when we were getting our oldest ready for boarding school at the tender age of 7&1/2, Ruth Montgomery dropped in on me and picked up a needle and thread and started helping me sew on name tags. I’m not sure what brought her that day, but as we talked I opened my heart to this woman who later became a very dear friend. She shared a verse the Lord had given her for her own children. “All your children will be taught of the Lord and great will be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13 Since that day in August 1960, that verse has been my prayer for each of our children, then their wives and husband, and for our 17 grandchildren and 7 great children. (The 7th is a foster baby being loved and cared for by a granddaughter and her husband – and their 4 year old and 18 month old.)


    1. I love this mom. A couple of weeks ago as we were sitting around the table having dinner with guests we were talking about you and Dad – how you pray for all of us, everyone of us, every single day. One of our kids said “Really?” I didn’t realize they didn’t know but I think about this all the time – especially when I am particularly challenged. Thank you.


    1. So fun isn’t it? They can dress themselves, they get more interesting by the day! Enjoy these Bollywood/macarena years. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately!


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