Bentley was in preschool, as a four-year-old, when the PE teacher led her class out to the turf to play soccer. As the kids took the field, the teacher noticed Bentley sitting against the wall of the school, contently watching. He walked to her and said, “Bentley, it is time for soccer.” Her reply…”Oh, no thank you.” (I still laugh out loud!) The teacher tells me he couldn’t help but giggle at the matter-of-fact, yet polite way she refused to participate with her class; as if it was a choice.

This wasn’t the first time Bentley innocently backed out of an activity. Our family still teases about the phrase she used consistently during her toddler years, “My not want to.” In fact, in joking, we still say that to each other about things we do not really want to do.

Bentley believed early on that if she was sweet enough, she would not have to participate in certain activities. I think, as adults, and especially as parents, there are many times we want to scream at the top of our lungs, “MY NOT WANT TO!”

The infant wants to eat five times through the night…my not want to.

A son/daughter wants to learn about the birds and the bees…oh, no thank you. Not yet. Not ever.

A child receives a diagnosis that threatens to leave her blind…oh, no thank you. We will pass on that one.

A teenager struggles with a season of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation…my not want to. Someone else fix this, it is too hard.

A child requires a season of intensive time spent working to keep up with school, needing a parent’s constant attention and encouragement…my not want to. I’m busy.

The list could go on, literally, forever. Even the every day tasks of parenting could solicit these responses. Life is HARD, and we all want to turn in the “Get out of jail free” card sometimes. Comments like Bentley’s are what make adults envious of the joys and freedom found in childhood. We tell our kids to hold on to it for as long as possible.

The truth is, there are no free passes in parenting. And, I believe that should we choose to find one, it might come at a cost much greater than having parked in Jail for a few rounds during a game of Monopoly. The pastor at our church made a statement a few weeks ago that stuck with me. He said, “May our parenting be an offering of praise, focused on what is eternal rather than what is stuck here, under the sun.” He followed that statement with this verse…”What do workers gain from their toil?” Ecclesiastes 3:9 And then, “….that each of them might….find satisfaction in their toil…” Ecc. 3:13.

Of course, what is toilsome for some seems easy for others. Some people never struggle with the colicky baby who is awake all hours of the night. Some people are blessed with healthy children, and never need to face the daily battles of medical or other types of interventions. That does not mean anyone is free from toil. Often, the toil is never seen or known by others.

As parents, Patrick and I have faced these troubles and know more will come. Despite the fact that we often feel inadequate, unsure of what to say/do, afraid to act, busy with our own lives, or others things that stand in the way of acting like parents, we ought to remember what a privilege it is to be gifted the ‘toil’ of parenting; being entrusted with the life of a child.

We might do well, in our own hearts and minds and experiences, to stop looking for ways out and view each trouble as an opportunity to toil on behalf of our children…knowing that there is satisfaction found in doing what is right, even when it is difficult. We aren’t talking about a PE class, we are talking about our children, and how our choice to be all in as parents just might matter forever.