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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Our Yoke

Sometimes parents talk about “easy” babies and “hard” babies. “Easy” babies might be characterized by agreeable personalities, smiles, and sleeping through the night. “Hard” babies might be characterized by colicky episodes of varying length, eating challenges, and waking intermittently through the night.

Now, I would acknowledge that “easy” vs. “hard” could be an entirely subjective reality. It could be that the distinction depends a fair bit on the parents as well as the disposition of the child. Perhaps first babies with inexperienced parents more often fall into the “hard” category. I am not sure. But I can say with certainty, Oscar was a hard baby.

In Oscar’s case, “hard” was marked by eating challenges early on and sleeping challenges well into his second year. I cannot remember clearly the first time he slept straight through the night. But I do recall that he was almost two years old when it happened with any regularity. Joshua and I were bleary-eyed for almost two years! THAT I remember clearly: the particular burn in the eyes that comes from prolonged lack of sleep.

Oscar is now twelve and a half. In a matter of months we will have our first teenager on our hands.

When I was in his room yesterday, I was remembering him as a baby. He was a serious baby. Not a big smiler. Not like his brother and sister who were all smiles. We have come to wonder if this could be attributed to Joshua and me. All Oscar saw as an infant were two highly inexperienced parents looking at him with very serious, nervous faces. Whereas all Simon and Lucy saw were smiles from happy, confident parents and an excited big brother looking down at them. Perhaps they were each just reflecting the faces they were seeing!

Oscar was not an easy baby and that was challenging for us as our first child. But as I was thinking in his room, I realized that he has been a very gentle and relatively “easy” tween.

Granted, he has some emotional (read: hormonal) flare-ups where his mood swings significantly and unexpectedly. During these times he is essentially completely unreasonable, and borderline unrecognizable, but they are pretty few and far between.

For the most part Oscar is an amazingly loving, gentle, fun young man. He is respectful, intelligent, diligent and genuinely kind. He helps us when asked, and rarely complains.

Reflecting on parenting him makes me think of the passage from Matthew 11 that begins, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” and concludes, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

I once heard a homily where the priest explained that in agrarian times, each yoke was made specifically for a given ox. It was fit to them individually so that it would rest just right on their shoulders and not chaff unduly in the midst of hard work.

So too with God: the yoke that God gives us is easy and the burden is light, because it is tailor-made to fit us. We have a yoke, yes — we have work to do. The work is enough to stretch us but not too much to handle.

This is how I view raising Oscar thus far. We have always been given enough challenge to stretch us as parents, but never more than we could actually handle. The responsibility of raising children well is certainly not easy, but the burden (as rife with joy as with challenge) is light.