By Hannah Paris
Back in March my parenting skills triumphed. I mean, I had it all together. Brian was gone, but the girls and I were great. Sick, sure. Missing him, definitely. But I could handle life by myself. No. Trouble.
For months we’ve been planning and talking about a family “work” trip. The girls and I would tag along with Brian to a language group in the East Sepik. We would stay with a missionary family stationed there while Brian traveled to as many of the villages in the group as possible. Ray and Willa would get some experience in the bush, and I would get some time with the missionary family. Days before we were scheduled to fly Ray came down with a deep cough, then Willa followed suit with a temperature. It made no sense for us to force the trip when they were miserable and would be happier in their misery at home. Unexpected last minute changes are just par for the course in PNG, so this one didn’t throw us off. Immediately another teammate, Tyler, took our place and got some amazing work done. While Brian traveled around talking to village leaders and hearing what the national translators had to say, Tyler spent the week working to get the translated portions of the Bible onto an audio recording. He was even able to disseminate a few chapters via Scripture App Builder. As Brian and Tyler made their way to the airstrip on the last day, they heard these recordings being played in different homes.
Sometimes God gives peace and preparation when plans go askew, and sometimes he doesn’t. I was grateful this time to both have peace and to palpably see how our reworked plan ended up being a blessing to so many. When push came to shove in the middle of the week and things weren’t going so smoothly in my single parenting, well, nevermind. I was joyful at being a small part of what was happening out there.
What is “smooth” in parenting anyways? It’s never good to believe a smooth road is ahead when you’re dealing with small children. They will always always put you topsy-turvy. Willa is 2. Last week while Brian was gone, Willa became 2. No more do we see the slightly intense, but generally happy Willa. It’s all intense, all will, all battle right now, but it’s still all beautiful. Stunning, in fact, because of God’s grace to our family and how much better we can see it flowing when parenting is more challenging.
The nights without Brian were particularly volatile. Willa’s routine dictates that Dad bathes her, and when Dad didn’t bathe her night after night, well, it was ugly. Ray and I endured long, sad fits about Dad’s absence that started at the end of supper and ended as we all cuddled on the floor for our nightly Bible story. This mama walked out of the room the third night exhausted. Emotionally, mentally, and spiritually drained. Earlier that day I (honestly!!) unintentionally bumped our security dog off the landing of our front door, plunging him to the concrete surface between our water tanks one floor below. He barely noticed his dramatic fall, taking a second to shake it off and then charging right back up the steps, but to say it was a rough day is an understatement. So I walked away from their room that night, crashed on the couch after grabbing the bottle of Sprite I had been looking forward to since Jett tumbled, and turned on an old episode of my favorite Australian reality show, My Kitchen Rules. I could feel the stress slipping away as my brain shut off.
I stayed in that spot for a little while nursing the soda. Stayed there as energy returned to my soul. Eventually at a break in the show I gathered my thoughts and realized it had been very quiet in the back ever since I left. Silently thanking God the girls had settled down so peacefully this particular night, I tiptoed down the hallway to peek in on them. Turning the corner, I couldn’t see either one of them. I crept closer, not wanting to disturb them if they were content reading their books or close to sleep, but I found the room empty. I turned to look in the bathroom and saw Ray wedged down in the toilet, head and arms dangling. Willa calmly stroked her head, binky deftly popped out of the side of her mouth like a mob boss with a cigar, repeating, “Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray.” My heart lost itself somewhere between my throat and stomach until I figured out she had simply fallen into a deep sleep. She was absolutely passed out. She barely woke up as I de-wedged her, got her PJs back on, and snuggled her down in bed. I asked her what in the world she was doing and her groggy response was, “I went potty. I was just waiting for someone to come help.” I figured out the next day that apparently wedging herself down in the potty is akin to a hammock for Ray. Her feet pop up and her arms dangle just at the right angle, so falling into a deep sleep? No problem. Does she feel any need to call out for help? Nope. Happy to just hang out right there as long as it takes for someone to walk by, because it’s super comfy. After she repeated the chill-in-the-toilet routine the next morning I squatted down next to her to explain why she can’t do that anymore. In the moment my head was telling me this would be the memory treasured as the pinnacle of my parenting.
But it was worth it! Dogs falling, kids in the toilet, Willa meltdowns… all worth it. We’re excited to see how God will move among the people Brian met, though I am pretty glad to have my other half back partaking in these parenting wins alongside of me.
Hannah is the wife of Brian, the Branch Director, and mother to Ray and Willa.