I have this image in my head of what I used to imagine parenting would be like long before being a parent was a real thing for me. Here's the basic gist of that image:
Sunlight streaming in through my bedroom windows, me snuggled up in my fluffy white comforter listening to the birds chirping outside just as two little blond-headed girls climb up into my arms for a morning hug, their faces bright like miniature tow-headed angels.
Here's what that image has been obliterated by:
Dark Thirty o'Clock. Slamming door across the hall as my four-year-old son exits his room and makes his way toward ours. Our bedroom door flings open and the hallway light blasts in. Small boy matter-of-factly announces his need for juice and proceeds to greet the baby who is still sleeping in our room (this is also the baby who has been waking up at three hour intervals throughout the night). And so the day begins with a bleary-eyed mama stumbling to the kitchen, baby in tow, to fetch juice and Cheerios whilst the boy skips ahead of her singing about robot dinosaurs at the top of his lungs.
Hello, reality of parenthood.
Some days I find myself staring in the mirror wondering at the fact that I am, at long last, a parent. And while eyeing a recently acquired forehead wrinkle, I also wonder what happened to my life and my freedom and my ability to have complete thoughts. These days, rarely five minutes go by without someone needing an intervention of some sort. And those interventions usually involve Number Two (in case you're reading this while you're eating lunch, I figured I'd keep things euphamistic). This leaves very little time for introspection. Or showers.
At times I'm undone by the seemingly endless list of demands that are made on this sleep-deprived, emotionally-drained mama. It feels like a heavy load some days to be a caretaker of little people and their unbounded needs. Sometimes it's just all feels ridiculously hard.
This morning on the way home from dropping the Samster off at school, a song on the radio did what music is supposed to do. It evoked a memory and sent me back to the past to when a different version of me was doing very different things than I am right now. And for a moment, it was nice to let myself remember a life without diapers and 3 a.m. feedings, before Oxi-Clean was a daily part of my life and the lyrics of unusual Canadian cartoon theme songs haunted my dreams. I forget sometimes that I had a life before I became a mom.
Before you start questioning where I'm going with this and begin wondering if perhaps I'm being excessively nostalgic and maybe start to think I'm regretting stuff I gave up to become a mom, let me ease your mind with this:
These are my people. And they make up a life that I'm wordlessly thankful for. So, even as I ponder the past and my current need to eat all my meals standing up, I don't mean to even hint that I'm not utterly blessed by having these three to call family.
No need to worry that you'll hear about this mom running away from home on the evening news tonight. I'm just doing a little verbal (of sorts) processing with you right now because it's less expensive than counseling.
A friend posted a quote online recently that I keep coming back to, mulling it over in my mind and wondering at its poignancy in this season:
"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before entering into another." - Anatole France
Some days being a parent feels a little bit like drowning in a sea of to-do's and what-not-to-do's and should-haves and shoudn't-haves. There's such a constancy to the mental refrain that "I am not measuring up" as I consider all the things I could be doing for my children (i.e. more flashcards, more organic snacks, less Jake and the Neverland Pirates, fewer Cheezits, more interactive play, less this, more that). The pressure is relentless at times. Add onto this list of do's and don'ts the black hole/vortex/quicksand that is Discipline. I stink at this basic tenet of parenthood. Somedays I just want to throw in the towel and buy a one-way ticket to wherever they're serving mai tais.
And so I find myself looking back from time to time at what life used to be like, most definitely glossing over the intense desire I felt then to be exactly where I am now. It's a curious thing attempting to live in the semi-organized chaos that is parenting and find joy here, even while fondly remembering the past and the parts of it that encompassed significant parts of myself.
Let's pause here and consider that it's also possible I'm having a mid-life crisis. Thirty-five is halfway to seventy after all.
But, I think perhaps I'm just living in a fallen world where time is an uncomfortable bondsman and the curious nature of living between seasons of my life, much less the already but not yet nature of the kingdom, is occasionally a bit much for this stay-at-home mama who doesn't have adults to talk to during the day.
The truth is that each season has its joys and pains and while this season seems unusually hard at the moment, it will be the source of limitless nostalgic memories when I'm seventy and telling harried mamas in the grocery store to "Enjoy this time. It passes so fast." I should probably start listening to those little old ladies when they tell me that. I think they're probably right.
The days are long, but the years are short.
Lord, help me.