“This year will be tough,” I thought to myself, anticipating the summer beach trips at my mom’s beloved but entirely toddler-unfriendly beach house, “but next year… just wait until next year!” The glass-topped tables, the readily accessible stairs, the breakable lamps attached to tuggable cords, the vulnerable trinkets, the vertical blinds, the unlatched cabinets, the massive canvas painting hung within swatting distance above the sofa, the media console with an array of enticing buttons… so much to safeguard from my bumbling tike. But being at the beach makes it all worthwhile.
I envisioned my long, memory-filled, sand-dusted, sun-soaked days wrangling my kindergartener and preschooler while simultaneously chasing my toddler on the beach, at the pool, on the playground, and then at the beach house. I recounted the strain of having no childproofed place I can safely place my littlest so that I can cook dinner, pack the beach cooler, make snacks, go to the bathroom, or just sit for a beat. I remembered how I woke up every day at 6AM on vacation and popped him — wailing — into the pack-and-play so that I could wearily pump, set out breakfasts, and pack for the day’s beach excursion before the rest of the house awoke. I remembered the sinking dread I felt at the prediction of a rainstorm that would keep us trapped inside.
This year, I’ll have to wean from pumping before we take our trips and I’ll have to wear him whenever we’re in the house, because a pack-and-play will no longer stand as an impeding obstacle to my athletic tot. I will be on duty from wake-up to bedtime. I will enjoy it. I will treasure it. I will end the season with a multitude of photos and a plethora of cherished memories. I will be exhausted in the best and most depleting way. “Just push through this year,” I reassured myself, “next year will be entirely different.”
Then it struck me: next year will be entirely different. It will be easier, but next year they’ll all be older. My herd will be 7, 5, and 3. 7… 7-years old! The better part of a decade? And my middle son a burgeoning kindergartener?? No more baby? No more toddler? Tears welled. My throat grew tight. They’re growing too fast! Make it stop!
Sure, life will still be loud and chaotic, because that is our familial heartbeat. Vacations will still be life relocated. I will still fight the descent into anarchy by planning and packing, scheduling and routine. My “vacation” will happen each night during the two hours between the kids’ bedtime and my own. I will, no doubt, still referee and soothe, corral and amuse, but I won’t be needed in that primal way. That exhausting, rewarding, wholly taxing manner that both fills the soul and drains all mental capacity.
And with that I stopped coaching myself to “just push through this year” but, instead, to savor it. Because next year will be entirely different.