Selfishness Boot Camp

Stories for the Journey

Note: This week, I will be sharing stories of my spiritual journey. Feel free to share yours in the comments or in an email. I would love to read them!

Have you ever heard boot camp stories from a new Marine? Even if he is exaggerating a bit, I shudder at the rigors of training. I admire his ability to make it through the grueling program without his body giving out in defeat. He is challenged mentally and emotionally as well.

About 12 years ago, I entered selfishness boot camp. I signed up glibly thinking of the shiny uniform and being part of fighting for a greater cause. I planned and prepared and arrived ready to go. Or so I thought.

They handed me a bundle of joy who must not have received the memo. Her first few weeks were more like a bundle of tears. For her and me. Just when we thought they had dried up, she hit the colic stage.

I realized then that in boot camp, you don’t get to decide when you sleep and when you get up. You don’t get to decide when to eat or how much time you get to eat. You don’t even get to decide when to get your shower. And instead of a big burly officer barking, “Give me twenty!” you are desperately repeating those words in prayer at 3 A.M. when someone decides they are hungry for the sixth time. In the last hour.

For me, my parenting boot camp magnified my own selfishness. Something about getting 2.4 hours of sleep and eating a diet of things grabbed quickly between feedings on a regular basis brings out the worst in us.

On this side of the baby stage, I think more of all the joys of parenting…..and there really are many. But, when I start to focus on myself, the Lord gently puts me back in boot camp.

Parenting is the most rewarding work and the most challenging work. It takes your emotions to the heights of gladness and to the lowest sadness, sometimes multiple times, in the space of an hour. And parenting success is often one step forward, two steps backwards.

Here are a few lessons that parenting these 12 years has taught me:

  • When a child wraps himself around your heart, he has the power to grant you the deepest joys and the deepest pain.
  • Focusing solely on the needs of the child or solely on your own needs are both recipes for disaster. Only in seeking the face of the Lord can peace be found.
  • A dog may perform exactly as trained, but a child has another whole dimension called a will.
  • About the time you think you have something mastered in parenting, watch out!
  • The days that seem so long are flying by too quickly.
  • Parenting is a process of laying aside one’s own desires and investing in the life of another. Just like our Father did!


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