How beautifully difficult

Twins Bailey and Braxton take a stroll together. Photo courtesy of their parents.

Twins Bailey and Braxton take a stroll together.
Photo courtesy of their parents.

“A child is a guest in the house, to be loved and respected– never possessed, since he belongs to God. How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true.
J. D. Salinger

As I think about it, “beautifully difficult” is an excellent way to describe what it’s like to have children around.  I don’t know any parent who would describe that role as being an easy one.

Caring for anyone or anything on an intimate and daily basis can inspire the sort of possessive attitude Salinger warns against.  The line between responsible care-giving and inappropriate control can become perilously thin, and most of us will err on one side or the other at least a few times in our lives.  Fortunately, most humans are resilient, and this trait apparently begins at birth.

When I read this passage, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the words “wonderful,” “sane,” “difficult,” and “true.”  I seldom see these concepts associated in such close proximity, but on consideration, they are practically interdependent.

Whether or not  you are a parent, you are almost certainly called to one or more roles that could be described by all four of these adjectives.  With that realization, I wish you a day of wonderful sanity; of difficult truths that bless your life with the joys, laughter and sober understanding that go with having a child in the house.


  1. So true and wonderful. Hope you had a grand Mother’s Day and things are more right in your world. There are no little ones around here anymore but they were beautifully difficult. I love how you say this.

    • Marlene, as much as I love kids, I’m grateful to be too old to have full time responsibility for them. At my age there is a lot more “beautiful” than “difficult” about them, which I’m sure you understand. 😀 Our Mother’s Day was peaceful and unhurried; lots of quiet companionship. Just what we all needed. Jeff is getting better day by day. Daily whole-brain radiation is tiring him out but he is keeping a very good attitude.

      • I know what you mean, Julia. I did the grandmother thing for my last husbands grandchildren. I thought they were mine too. But even then, I could only handle it for a few hours at a time. I was always glad to see mom or dad come and get them. We had a nice mother’s day too. Just my 2 grown children and I. It was lovely. We did go see the movie “Mother’s Day” that was filled with every emotion. Mostly laughter and a few tears. I was laughing tears when we left. Then a quiet lunch up on my hill with a makeshift picnic table. 🙂 Good gravy, full brain radiation! I just can’t imagine. I’m praying for you and your family. But you knew that. Giant hugs.

        • Marlene, I haven’t even heard of that movie, but now that I have, I’ll try to see it. A quiet lunch on a hill with a makeshift picnic sounds totally wonderful to me. I love any excuse for a picnic. Jeff had radiation every single day last week and I’m still having to do all the driving (his vision is still affected by the tumor) but he’s halfway through this course now and we are not even thinking about the chemo that will start up when radiation is finished. YES I knew you were praying because that’s how we are surviving 😀 but it always helps to be reminded, thank you!! Speaking of grandkids– Grandson #2 is now officially past his due date. He is taking his time just as his brother and father did (Drew was nearly 3 weeks late!!!)

  2. Carolyn

    Nothing makes me happier that to have my youngest grandson with me and the talks we have. He is 9 and his sister came home from college last week and he told me that he was going to love up on her, he has missed her so much. The weather was very nice last week and Josh was.with us, so we went to our swing and had a great time. How are things going now that Jeff is home? Hugs and love to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, your time with Josh sounds wonderful. As much fun as Grady is now, I’ll bet it will be even better as he gets older. It’s so much fun when they can actually speak in sentences. 😀 Jeff is doing a bit better each day. He has been surprised at how tired he was from day one with the radiation, but I think it’s probably worse in that respect when it’s hitting the brain. I don’t remember him saying he was tired during the 6 weeks of daily abdominal radiation he had in 2013. Despite feeling tired, he is doing quite well, all things considered. Walking some and staying as busy as his body will allow him to be. He’s napping most days, which I think is great. Hope you all have some more nice weather to come before it turns off hot.

  3. Wonderful post, Julia. Although children can be a handful and a paradox, they provide a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity for any woman to be celebrated with her own day.
    A belated Happy Mother’s Day, Julia!

    • Thank you, Alan!

  4. MaryAnn

    Good morning, Julia! Such a cute photo especially for you & me, since we adore the outdoors & a walk through the woods. “Jesus called for the children, saying, ‘Let the little children come to me’.” Luke 18:16 Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is exciting & humble.
    Praying for Jeff, Matt & you! Love to all 3, MaryAnn

    • Mary Ann, you would love “the Honey B’s” as I have called them ever since learning their names. They are truly a delight, and as you say, seeing through their eyes is an instant mood lifter. Thanks so much for your prayers. I think of you pretty much every day since we use our “mug rugs” at every meal. 🙂

      • MaryAnn

        What a blessing for me!!!:)

        • Thank you, Mary Ann! It is a blessing to have you here with us. Hard to believe it’s been nearly 12 years since we were together in person…I feel as close as ever in my heart.

          • MaryAnn

            Precious words from a “Forever Friend”! I know we are connected, thereby the closeness it felt long distance! Such a gift from God to love one another so deeply.
            (As you can see, I am way behind in emails.)

            • Mary Ann, I so totally understand about being behind on emails — in my case it gets worse by the day! Jeff keeps telling me to just delete them all and start from zero, but I’m too afraid I’ll miss something really good. 🙂 I get so many interesting things. YES we are forever friends and will be connected always, but the computer makes it so much easier to stay in touch. Hope you are having a wonderful week.

  5. Sheila

    Good Tuesday morning, Julia. Well, once again our lives seem to parallel one another. It may only be “like or similar, but different” although I’ve thought of you, of Jeff, in these recent days. Bill had foot surgery to repair nerve and tendon damage last Thursday, due to a grilling accident. Life can change in a moment, but thankful that it wasn’t worse. I have “sober understanding” that challenges can come in many forms. thinking of the excitement your family is enjoying now, with Jeff’s recovery, Drew’s graduation, and a new baby. All is fine, but sorry for the absence here. I’ll get an email to you soon. Hugs, Sheila 💛

    • Oh my, I’m so sorry for Bill’s accident. Hope he is able to be up and around again soon. Yes, life is SO unpredictable. Sometimes I remind myself (and Jeff) to be thankful for all the bad things that DON’T happen. Yes, our family is in full baby mode, with two nephews and their wives having new little ones in the past month, and Owen Ramon due any day now. It’s wonderful to hear from you but I know we are always close in spirit even when life gets in the way of our communications. The Verandah is always open and the kettle stays on… 🙂 ❤

      • Sheila

        Oh, Julia! My friend comes through with words that make me smile and give me strength. Bill was using a new grill, stainless steel griddle, Japanese style cooking! It was looking really good, until the knife fell, and the rest is history, The orthopedic surgeon said his schooling hadn’t prepared him for such! We went to our verandah today. Southern life is good Thank you, Lord! 🙏

        • Yikes, that sounds like something I would do! That new grill sounds great, though. My favorite restaurants to go to are the hibachi style (such as Benihana) but we got spoiled by the Japanese restaurants in Hawaii. I totally love zucchini grilled with onions, ginger etc. on a hibachi. That’s the ONLY way I like zucchini, though. I hope you had a lovely weekend. We had rain for most of ours so far, but just enough sunshine for me to get outside and plant some portulaca and water our snapdragons, azaleas and other plants. Happy Sunday tomorrow!

  6. HarryS

    Do you think this applies to my inner child?
    Do you think that my inner child and my soul are Anamcharas.
    Just a few thoughts.
    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog site.
    It certainly keeps my impending despair at bay.

    • Harry, yes, it definitely applies to our inner children. I’m not that familiar with the concept of Anamcharas but from what little I read of it, it sounds as if the inner child is definitely that. So many of us would have liked more respect as children, and it’s up to us as adults to recognize that longing in ourselves and surround our child AND adult selves with those who understand the importance of it. I am happy if keeping my own despair at bay, can help others to do the same!

  7. Amy

    Given this week I will watch my youngest and my only son graduate from college I find this verse very apropos. I have crossed that line more than once I am sure. Thanks for sharing. Love you.

    • Hi Amy, I’ve been thinking of you this weekend. I decided not to send A’s card until you guys got back, so don’t worry if it’s not there when you get your mail. It’s hard to strike the right balance as parents, but I think you and Stephen managed it beautifully. Your kids are the proof. Love to all of you!

  8. Hi Julia! Just breezing by to tell you I’m thinking of you and your dearest. I hope all is going along as well as can be. People have often said to me, I think you’d be a good mom. But having a difficult time with my own mom, I was always afraid. Afraid that I could ever do it right. I guess I’ll never know. I will concentrate on being that Aunt everyone like visiting. xo

    • K, you are the Aunt, Friend, Neighbor, etc. etc. etc. that everyone likes visiting! I think you would be a great Mom but you are blooming in many other ways, so you are right where you are needed. Including here!!! Sometimes I wonder what I might have done if I had put all the energy I’ve used up being a Mom into some other endeavor, but as you say we’ll never know, and I know we are both happy to be where we are (at least most of the time 😉 ). Have a lovely Sunday tomorrow and thanks for checking in! I still have a card sitting on my table waiting for me to send it along with the pics I promised. I haven’t forgotten…

  9. Good morning, Julia! I was feeling a little left out because there are simply NO young children in my life right now …. But of course, I can change that! (No not the nine-month way!) I was especially missing some little girls from the AMH where I used to volunteer in New Hampshire. But I will be starting a new (re-starting an old) volunteering role with Parenting with Purpose again on the 21st of May, and will again be playing chauffer to some children in the program. Hooray!

    • Aw, I wasn’t trying to make you feel left out. I actually don’t get nearly enough time with kids myself, though I sometimes binge-watch Grady videos. I’m glad you will be volunteering with the program, though — everyone will have fun and you’ll all learn from each other! And you’ll likely go home every day feeling glad you are past the “young kids at home” phase. 🙂

  10. blseibel

    Ohh I needed to hear this. My child is 20 and going to live with dad for a while (hopefully only a while) and I am sad but hoping it will be helpful for her. She has been troubled and lost these last 9 months due to his leaving and boyfriend issues and just being 20. I pray for her to draw closer to God and find peace. She was mine to raise for God but never mine to possess. Meanwhile my godchildren (6, 4,and 1) cheer me and are nearby for me to love on. Awwww children truly are a gift from God

    • We’ll pray that her time away is good for everyone involved, and that you will be together again refreshed and renewed by your time apart. I would not want to be 20 again, and that helps me have sympathy for young people who are still struggling with worries that we tend to forget about when we get older. Life is not easy for anyone, it’s just that the problems are different at different ages. I’m so happy you have your godchildren to add joy to your life, as I know you must to theirs! YES they are a gift.

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