Handle with Care combines factual information with parenting experiencing to take a light-hearted look at how to care for a newborn baby.
Of course, if anyone thought parenting was a matter of completing a checklist like this one, people wouldn’t worry so much about having children. Yes, babies need feeding, bathing and clothing, they need to be kept safe and entertained, but is that really all there is to it?
Babies, even before they are born, are disruptive. They are often at the center of chaos. But babies are people, even before they are born, and people are hugely disruptive and always at the center of chaos! The difference between babies and the rest of us is that they can’t look after themselves at all.
They need absolutely everything done for them. Their needs are not just physical (because people are not just bodies). And once you have a baby in your life, it will obviously change in many ways. Having learned to be responsible for yourself, you have to learn to be responsible for someone else. It isn’t just the babies who have some growing up to do.
Parenting is way more radical than just ‘doing’ a list of things: it’s about ‘being’ a mother or father. In a way, it doesn’t just change a person’s life but their identity; not by turning them into someone else, but enabling them to become more fully themselves. It’s like this: God calls all people to himself – we call this the ‘universal vocation to holiness’. Because God knows us better than we know ourselves (having created us) and because he loves us (and wants us to be happy) in following the particular path he calls us along we are guaranteed happiness and fulfillment – for most people this will be through marriage and children. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and we know that he is a Communion of Love (that is what the Trinity means) so our fulfillment and happiness and being fully ourselves is all about love (see 1Jn 4:8,16) and self-giving (see the Gospel!). Radical parenthood is exactly that: love and self-giving. And, what is more, parents live our mission to be co-creators with God in a very special way.
The world tells us that we have the right to choose absolutely everything about our lives, and we desperately want to be ‘in control of our destiny’. Babies and children show us in a very real way that we are really, really not. Happiness, fulfillment and following God’s plan are not about control. We are free to choose, but it is His plan which we choose (or not) to follow when we choose (or not) to be happy.
In caring for their children (through losing out on sleep, putting the needs of others who are totally dependent on them before their own, toning down their social lives, perhaps cutting back in other ways) parents live out this radical vocation to love and give of themselves to others. And from what I have seen of my friends with children, there are as many ways to be a good parent as there are people.
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