Right now I need one of those good pep talks, you know the kind that reminds you that the housework isn’t as important as your kids heart or that you will indeed sleep again. I wish 40 year old me could come back and tell myself I survive, that motherhood of three did not in fact take me down. I wish I could be like George Baily or whoever that guy is in it’s a wonderful life and see all that I have instead of the exhaustion I feel. Because what I feel like is the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing and blowing all the joy out of my kid’s childhood. I feel like the monster in yoga pants who breaks up games that my 2 and 3 year old deem perfectly acceptable but I see it as our first trip to the ER. I need 40 year old me to let me know we made it out of this hard season and my kids do in fact still love me and I did eventually find the time to shower and fit back into my jeans.
The truth is sometimes motherhood feels like drowning and the things taking you down are somewhat ridiculous, like the sheer mountains of laundry, or the exhaustion that settles into your bones, or the constant fear that you are missing moments to teach your kids the really important things about faith and life because of said laundry and the exhaustion.
Then today I was walking into preschool and I see a mom pull up to the curb, a middle school girl hops out throws her long hair back, puts her back pack on and hurries away, a flurry of converse shoes and eye rolls. Her mom is yelling after her, “you can do it babe, be strong, I’m proud of you.” I see her laugh a little, I don’t even think she heard the last part before she made it through the door. I look down at the two tiny hands clutching the stroller and the tiny baby asleep inside it and a pang of guilt hits me. How I have wished for that freedom, the drop them off at the curb kind of freedom? The shopping uninterrupted kind of freedom. The have coffee with a friend just cause its Wednesday kind of freedom. I have been dreaming of the days when Ben I can walk the neighborhood without a stroller, talk without a toddler climbing us like a jungle gym, or spend the better part of my day doing anything besides cleaning up plastic toys.
That’s not where we are though and I think the pep talk that 40 year old me would say over a large Starbucks dark roast (or maybe I drink tea at this point because I don’t need an IV drip of strong coffee to survive) is this.
Today they need you… today they need to ask 1000 questions about why trees are green and why babies cry. Today they need you to hold their hand when they cross the street and sing them songs when they are scared. Today they need you to cut their sandwiches in triangles and wipe their snotty noses and play silly games. Today they need you to let them be little. Today they need you to snuggle for an extra minute and pray for their stuffed cat and pretend they are a princess. Today they need you to dry their tears when they fall and rub their back when they are sleepy and put band aids on boo boos that don’t really exist. Today they need you to let them be little.
Because the truth is we can’t outrun the clock and each day they are one step closer to not needing my hand or wanting my full attention… and I’ll miss it. So the pep talk I really need is simply this… don’t miss it, lean in, and learn to love it.
One day I’ll be that mom in the drop off line and they will bound out the door and hardly listen as I yell my encouragement after them. One day they will roll their eyes when I answer questions and close their door when I want to be let in. One day they will cry over broken hearts and harsh words instead of a skinned knee. The freedom will roll in strong and blow away these little years and I’ll wish I hadn’t worried so much about the state of my bathroom or the cleanliness of my kitchen. One day I’ll be looking longingly at an exhausted mom in line at target with three small kids and turn to Ben and say “weren’t those the days.”
Yes they are hard, exhausting, and draining but most of our problems are as pint sized as their little bodies. I know where everyone is at 9pm every night. My son’s belly laughs could grow even the Grinch’s tiny heart. My daughter’s imagination always astonishes and there’s nothing better than the ear piercing squeal we hear around 5:30 when dad walks into the door. There is always joy to be found when you are willing to look. So I will seek it out when my body wants to quit and I don’t know what’s for dinner and if one more person says mom I might explode. I will listen to my baby girl coo and wonder if I am closer to the breath of God than I’ll ever be in my whole life. I’ll forgo to do lists for laying on the floor with my girls and trying to get Colbie to laugh. I’ll skip the shower and put my hair in a ponytail so I can make them pancakes just because the sheer joy on their face when it’s not another morning of oatmeal. I will lean into the hard days and let it grow me and mold me, knowing that hard is the marinade in the making of motherhood. I will not breeze by questions that are the gentle knocks of God on my impressionable daughter’s heart. I will tell myself I am doing the best I can and I will believe it. I will read one more book when I want to shut the door. I will lay in bed with them one extra minute when I want to be done and at the end of the day I will look over pictures and videos and marvel at how much has changed.
Then 40 year old me will smile over her decaf tea and say… and they all lived happily ever after.
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.