Moments It’s All Worth It

Every day contains moments of laughter, frustration, disbelief, relaxation, anxiety, disgust, and happiness. Some days contain more memorably good — or not-so-good — moments than others, but that’s life. Moments like this, though, make it all worth it.

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It’s the quiet, unexpected moments that snatch your breath and make your eyes well. It’s the little things that spur you to press the mental “save” button with frenzied intensity, like an impatient elevator rider battering an elevator call button. As if you think the more you tell yourself, “Remember this! Remember THIS! REMEMBER THIS!” The more likely you will be to ensure the recollection is stored away safely in your mental files. And not have it instantaneously forgotten, like the fellow mom’s name you’ve re-asked too many times already to possibly question again without seeming senile.

Seeing the people you love most love one another is unlike anything else. It’s one of the biggest rewards of having multiple kids.

For that moment all of the tantrums and boundary-pushing, the intentionally soiled clothing and mealtime drama is forgotten. For that breath in time everything is blissful and magical. Parenthood is the most rewarding endeavor ever undertaken. You are the best parent on earth blessed with the most angelic cherubs ever dreamt.

Then someone wipes a booger on you, and you’re back to reality.

Savor those moments. During the rough times, remember they’re there… those glimmering mementos of beauty, those cherubs you see shine through the crusted snot and marker-streaked faces. Those moments of joy, they’ll carry you through. Treasure them. You earned it.

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Next Year will be Entirely Different

“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.

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Summer 2016

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.

Wracked with Mom Guilt

The house is quiet. I desperately want to be asleep. Instead… mom guilt.

I yelled too much. I didn’t cuddle enough. They’re growing too fast. I should be more Pintrest-y. I don’t give this child enough one-on-one time. I should do more cool things with the other child. Am I teaching the youngest enough? I should make a sensory box. I should savor bedtime instead of surviving it. Should I let my littlest move forward with ridiculously early potty-training even though I really don’t want to do it right now? I’m letting the memories all slip by. I need to exercise more. Why can I not remember when my middle son first stood on his own? I feel like I failed today.

So much guilt. SO much!

So much pointless self-flagellation. If I’m going to berate myself and sacrifice much-needed sleep to do so, I might as well make it worthwhile. But how?

Tomorrow! Tomorrow is a fresh start. A new day. An opportunity to yell less, hug more, be more present and patient, be more creative and encouraging. I will do better tomorrow. At least I’ll try.

I won’t be perfect. I will slip up. I will do my best.

And that’s all we can do. We must accept our faults, learn from our mistakes, actively do better, and forgive ourselves. For what is the point of suffering guilt if not to move ourselves in a positive, remedying direction?

We are human. We are flawed. We are parents. We have tomorrow.

Choosing to Savor

It’s 40 minutes into naptime and here I am pinned beneath my slumbering 1.5-year-old in a dark room. I could be resistant, I could be irritated, or I could choose to savor.

After checking all of the boxes for a solid toddler nap — an active morning playdate, a hearty lunch, a fresh diaper, and a belly full of breastmilk — I figured this would be a simple part of the daily routine. Mommy hubris strikes again!

After my toddler drifted into a milky slumber, I tried transferring him to his crib. No dice. As soon as he left my arms, his eyes sprung open and he wailed that heartbreaking cry of abandonment. Two more attempts. Two more failures. Finally, I caved.

Defeated by my own offspring, I picked up my tot, grabbed his fuzzy blanket, and sat down in his glider. I allowed him to nuzzle and curl into me, so that he may drift back to sleep.

And so, as I sit here rocking my sleeping son, feeling his blanket-bundled weight in my arms and his soft sleepy breath against my cheek, I have three choices: 1) I can continue to fight a losing battle to transfer him into his crib, 2) I can resentfully rock with my little one and lament the break I’m missing, or 3) I can enjoy the moment. This time, I’m choosing option #3.

At 17-months-old, this may be his last time wanting to nap in my arms. He’s more of a climber than a cuddler, so these tender moments are likely to be distant memories once he’s weaned. What seems bothersome now will be deeply craved in not-so-distant time.

And so I sit here in a dark room holding my toddler, savoring the moment. Enjoying my growing boy.

The World through a Toddler’s Eyes

To see life through the eyes of a 1.5-year-old must be a wondrous thing. A simple stroll is akin to an amusement park when all the world is new

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Yesterday afternoon my youngest and I went for a neighborhood walk. Down the sidewalk we strolled, his chubby toddler hand in mine. “Wow!” He exclaimed, pointing at a service van parked in a neighbor’s driveway. We stopped and admired the van, then returned to our ambling.

“Up!” He pointed with a pudgy finger. A hawk flew above us in the autumn sun. Then, my toddler took a few steps and found a stick. He drew in a deep, dramatic breath and held his prized find.

Every few feet he’d plop down on the pavement without warning and poke at the grass with his stick. I’d pause for a bit then gently return him to his feet, and on we walked.

A delivery truck pulled into the neighborhood. “Choo-choo!” He gasped, since trains and trucks are interchangeable in his 1.5-year-old mind.  Then we turned the corner: the mail truck! He froze, jaw open, staring in awe. The mail truck drove on and so we resumed our journey.

A buzzing whir pulsed through the air. A neighbor was using an air compressor in his garage. How fascinating! We paused briefly so he could catch a glimpse.

On we strolled. A broad rottweiler with a vigilant owner ambled towards us. The dog’s owner commanded his well-fed pet to sit as we walked by. “Dog!” my companion called. “Dog! Dog!” He wrenched his head around and plopped himself square in the center of the sidewalk, wanting to do nothing else but play with the sizeable canine who was at least a head taller than him. The dog had plodded his way down the sidewalk, entirely disinterested in my toddler. He was on his own expedition; we needed to return to our own.

I scooped up my partner and pointed at the colorful leaves. “Yellow,” I said, “yellow leaves.” A gust of wind rattled the branch, sending shivers through the dry golden leaves. He was delighted.

I set him down on the sidewalk, held his hand, and on we went. He stopped. “Uhh! Uhh!” He grunted and pointed. Yellow spinning pinwheels in the neighbor’s garden. He pulled away from me and marched head first up the driveway. I collected him and tried to walk him back to the sidewalk. Not happening. He shook away from my hand and charged through the grass. “Nope! Not your yard.” I said. He fussed and twisted in my arms. Mean mommy. Time to head home.

The woosh of an airplane refocused his attention. “Up! Up there!” He pointed at the plane. He looked on happily from his perch in my arms. I carried him for a bit, he cuddled in close, and I doused him with kisses. Knowing, in time, such affection would be entirely dismissed.

I saw some fallen leaves beside the sidewalk and set him down. He stomped and crunched, savoring the texture and sound. On we went. Another airplane flew over head, then another. He was equally enthralled by both.

By the time we arrived home, I had soaked in every bit of my growing boy that I could. And he had glimpsed a neighborhood full of fascinating finds. To see the world through his eyes must be marvellous. I am fortunate to see him see it all.

Locker Room Wisdom

“This part of our lives is infinitesimal. I wish we were able to enjoy it more as we experience it.” Some of the best hindsight-based wisdom I have received came from a grandmother in the community center locker room.

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As I changed my 1-year-old after his Mommy-and-Me swim class, we chatted. She was friendly and wise, happy to share her insights –and, I, glad to receive them — as a mother of twin now-men who had moved across the country when her boys were but a year old. “I never knew how to dress my boys for this Mid-Atlantic weather,” she said. “I was a California girl. I had no idea what I was doing. They were always dressed too warm or too cool,” she laughed at herself, “but, they grew up just fine. We put so much pressure on ourselves for those things.”

And so, as I nursed my 1-year-old at 3am this morning, the grandmother’s wisdom echoed in my sleep-hazed mind. Instead of lamenting the rest I was missing, I chose to savor the baby cuddles. All too soon I will be sleeping uninterrupted with empty arms.

“These are the good days”, I reminded myself. I kissed my baby’s soft hair and held him close in the dark of the too-early morning, remembering to enjoy this infinitesimal part of my life.