Practicing Parents

Vulnerability and the Super-Parent Complex

By: Andrew Gale

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I can’t do it all. I know that. But sometimes it seems like it’s worth a shot. I find there is a fine line between being a parent who cares sacrificially and a parent who doesn’t know when to ask for help. And I tend to flirt with that line. Too often. Slipping my foot over to the side of non-stop superhero activity until something simply has to give. Vulnerability is not a high value in our culture, but I think for our own health and sanity we must recognize at least two kinds of vulnerability: the kind that calls us into community with others and the kind that calls us to lean on the grace of God.

When it comes to parenting the reality is that we need help. Though our culture may wave the banner of individualism, we were made for community. My wife and I recently took a 3,700 mile trip in a week. Not recommended, but it’s doable. We have a two-year old, and thankfully she spent some quality time with Grammy rather than traveling the entire trip with us. While we were on the trip, I was reminded how much I need people to help me on this parenting journey. Having my daughter on the trip would have made our task infinitely more challenging. Maybe impossible. And almost certainly unenjoyable. Community makes healthy parenting possible. The most important realization is that we need others and when to call on their help. Most of the people I meet are more than willing to help when I am willing to ask. But there are other times when there is no community help that can make the situation pass.

Sickness seems to pervade the life of a toddler. At times it seems it’s the only thing toddlers willingly share: germs. And so without fail, my two year-old was down for the count with a cold mid-winter. It started out as it always does, she was a little fussier than normal. Then she slept like she hadn’t slept in weeks. The next day the sickness hit her and she was miserable; sniffling, moping, and with lots of tears (mostly by her parents, but she cried sometimes too). Watching your child deal with something as minor as a cold is difficult for a superhero type. Thankfully, a simple cold will eventually go away.

One night, while my daughter was especially sick, I snuggled in bed with her at her request. I stroked her hair and told her how strong she was as she attempted to fall asleep. As I sat there looking at her face which seemed to be exasperated even in rest, I sensed my inability to really do much of anything. As a dad, I want to take away the discomfort and get her back to normal, but all I can do is tell her that this will eventually pass. My trust lies in the One who cares deeply for her.

There is vulnerability in parenting. At times I need to take off the pretend superhero cape I wear and let others be my hero. Parenting is strengthened in community. Other times I must simply remember that the cape I wear is really an imitation of the One who cares much more about my family than I can imagine. In those moments I must relinquish my desire to be in control and lean on the grace of God who embraces my family with love and offers hope in even the most common times of need.

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