I practically waited by the door the other night for Brett to come home, my time card punched before my shift was over, my patience allotment all used up. My kids needed every inch of me that day—my arms to hold them, my energy to clean up after them, my constant attention to read that book and answer that question and pull that stool away, pour that milk, sign that paper, lock those pantry doors again. By the end of the day, I was tired and frustrated that all these ideas I’ve had remain dormant—no time or energy to feed them, or maybe even more frustrating, just pure unwillingness to act on them. I had work to do, and so the changing of the guards commenced. I passed Brett the baton of the frazzled remains of the day, apologized for the state of the kitchen and kissed the kids goodbye. There were toys on the floor and dishes in the sink, and Nella and Dash both cried for me as I walked out.
For a few hours, I breathed and thought and wrote, nurturing my own needs instead of juggling the demands of all of theirs, and it felt good. I ate by myself that night, quietly writing between bites and watching the sun set from my window in the restaurant. We needed milk, so I stopped at the store on the way home and used it as an excuse to wander—smell candles, sample lotion, peruse books, scout out flashy fall nail polish displays on the store end cap.
By the time I rolled back in the driveway, it was well past dark. And though I opened the door to the exact same scene I had left earlier—dishes still in the sink, toys on the floor, three kids just as needy—it felt different, my weariness softened by the perspective reentry gives. It was home—the bath toys that made it out of the tub and into the hallway, the ice cube melting on the kitchen tile in front of the refrigerator where Dash no doubt tampered with the water dispenser again, the homework that needed to be checked, the lunches that needed to be made, the excited little gasp I heard from the living room–a reaction to my arrival, arms that reached up to me with a “Hold you,” and the other two that ran to follow her lead. We stood in the kitchen, all entangled in a giant hug of octopus arms, and I soaked up their little needs like super hero fuel.
Sometimes I think I rely too much on the beautiful moments of motherhood to make the hard ones “worth it.” And even though the beautiful far outweighs the hard (listen, I have a black belt in finding good moments), what if it didn’t? If babies didn’t sleep soundly on chests or ever stop waking up in the night, if toddlers didn’t say “I love you” back or reach up to hold your hand, if daughters never smiled and curled up in your lap at night just like how you imagined they would when you dreamed of them, if sons never asked you to help them ride a bike or read a book or hold them when they’re scared, if research and routines and therapists never delivered the breakthroughs you believed in, if teenagers never said “I’m sorry,” if tough love never brought her back home, if you never stopped feeling this tired or unequipped or so completely removed from how you thought it would look, if it never got better…it’s still worth it. Right now.
Loving, even when it’s hard, is the payoff in parenting. Not our kids shelling out beautiful moments or loving us back or being good or becoming something different from what they are right now. The flip side to the hard parts of parenthood isn’t shinier or easier–it’s just clearer. Like coming home to the same needs and messes and volume and stressses that you left a bit earlier but seeing them for what they are–something you get to be a part of.
So while I picked moments that might look shiny to share, know that they aren’t what made parenting good or beautiful or worth it this week. They just gave us something to smile about.
Hide and Go Seek.
I swear he’d hide for half an hour, silent and waiting, if that’s how long it took for me to find him.
Watching Brett Point the Leaf Blower at the Kids
…because gas fumes and power tools are fun safe toys, and we’re responsible like that.
Spontaneous Witching Hour Get-Out-of-the-House Adventures
The Westminster Trot
Am I right or am I right? See, look.
All Three in a Pic.
Stroller seat belt for the win.