I remember the first time

It was kicking-out time on the ward. I had to leave. I was a little relieved. Our first child had been born at about dawn that day. She had slept all day. From birth until late evening, we had seen little evidence that she was not a toy dolly. It was now late, the midwives had told me that I had to leave. I got up to go. I said goodnight to Mary. I probably gave her a kiss. I might have smiled and said something wildly inadequate like, “Congratulations” or “Well, what a day!” I turned to go. Then she said it.

“What do I do if she wakes up?”

It hit me like a brick to the head. With that one question, I realised: She had no idea what she was doing either! It hadn’t even occurred to me before. I had always been very clear that I was clueless. I think I had just assumed that all women were born with an innate understanding of what to do with a baby. But I had married one without a clue. Neither of us had the slightest idea what to do next.

Presumably I did answer her question. I have no memory of what was said or done next. I doubt I just turned and ran, although I suspect the thought did occur to me. Perhaps I said, “She’ll probably want a feed” or “Check her nappy, she might need changing.” Because those became my only two suggestions whenever any of my baby children cried.

I only remember the shock of discovering that Mary and I were equally ill equipped for parenting. Throughout the previous months, Mary had offered me various pregnancy books to read which had too many diagrams and pictures of calm women without any clothes. I had shown something less than a passing interest. At the time, I think I believed Mary’s interest in these books demonstrated her innate understanding of all aspects of parenting. In retrospect, there is a more obvious explanation. I should have seen the warning signs earlier.

Since this discovery, I have listened more carefully to other, more seasoned parents hoping that they will give me the elusive solutions to the parenting problems that emerge every day. I regularly pick up parenting books only to discover that many people are making a living from peddling shared ignorance. I have even day dreamed about some sort of pre-loaded parenting USB that can be inserted into an ear. My logic is solid: The next generation is dependent on a bunch of clueless beginners for their principle source of wisdom, insight and experience. How can that possibly work?

In parenting, more than in any other part of my life, I find myself holding tightly to this verse:
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Thank the Lord! 10 years later, I still feel like a fraud. But I have learnt to hold tighter to my Lord’s power. Now I know that we can even celebrate our cluelessness!