You guys. It happened.
I’m sitting here under the awning of a coffee shop patio drinking water, only because I’ve already had two cups of coffee. And I’m by myself. Like, no child is near me. Well, scratch that. There is a toddler crying a few feet away from me, but the beauty is that calming her is not my responsibility.
I dropped my three kids at school this morning. The first-grader I let out at the elementary school; the five and three-year-old went to preschool; then, I went to a coffee shop to write. And now I’m sitting here without anyone climbing on my back, or asking me if they can have a snack, or stealing my phone, or whining about … anything. I feel amazingly free and creeped out all at the same time.
I watch that woman a couple tables over from me with her toddler strapped tightly into the stroller, sipping on her coffee, attempting to feel like a real human-being for just a few seconds, and I want to reach out to her and give her a hug because she’s sporting the I-got-two-hours-of-sleep-last-night look. I know that look. I wore that look for six years.
Yet, here I am, sitting in a coffee shop by myself just barely on the other side of it. As in, a week. Here I am enjoying freedom and missing my babies and basking in silence and wanting to snuggle them. Here I am not listening to my child cry and so (SO) thankful, but also a little bit jealous of that toddler’s chubby hands and tiny ponytail atop the crown of her bobblehead.
I wouldn’t dare say “It goes by so fast” or “Soak it up” or anything equally trite, because God knows, in those moments that’s the last thing you want or need to hear.
While it does go by so fast, I don’t think it’s possible to soak it up. I think for most of us, the best we can do is go a day at a time. In those early years when we’re so sleep deprived and our weary bones are putt-putting on goldfish fumes and PB&J crusts, when we’re literally just trying to keep little people from being run over by cars or eating poison or slicing their heads open on the corner of the fireplace, there is no such thing as soaking it up. There is only gratitude.
So if it weren’t completely awkward of me, I’d walk over to that sweet mama and tell her this. Tonight, after you’ve put the kids to bed and you’ve finally sat your tired behind on the couch only to ruminate over all the mistakes you made throughout the day, take a deep breath, and go into their rooms. Stand over them as they lie peaceful and still (for once), watch their breath move their tiny chest up and down, up and down. Do not touch them. I repeat: no touching allowed. But breathe in their littleness. Take a mental snapshot of their tiny hands, untouched skin, pursed lips. And thank God for the gift of that child.
You didn’t have a perfect day. You probably yelled once or twice. Patience is not always easy to come by in these parts. But you hugged them. You kissed them. You loved them as only you can love them, because you are their mama. God chose you. What a gift motherhood is, even in the messy, mundane, long days of the trenches.
It’s hard to see, sometimes, isn’t it? It’s hard to find gratitude when your brain is overstimulated by shouts and crashes all day long, when your trying to get to at least one place on time for once, and you are responsible for dressing and combing and bathing and … and … and …
Sometimes, in the messiest months of motherhood we forget to make space for gratitude because all we have space for is survival. But in the still of night, in the eerie calm of a busy home, it’s much easier to see our motherhood for what it is: good and blessed. It’s much easier to find gratitude for what God has so graciously placed in our hands.
Tomorrow will be another long day. You will make mistakes. You won’t get it right every time, and neither will I. You might get flustered and annoyed and wonder if you’re the right woman for the job (you are, by the way). But in the dark, let God take your hand and lead you back to the good parts of the day, the good parts of your home, and thank him for the gift of those little slumbering bodies.