All I Need To Know Today

I just want to breathe.

Right this very moment, my toddler is screaming from her crib and my middle child is playing with a roll of duct tape behind me, making that “riiiiiiip” sound over and over.

It’s nap time, obviously.

I need to breathe.

I have spent months struggling to find my breath. I have felt the actual sensation of my spirit sinking as I slogged through the hard parts of mothering, digging deep for just one more day of a little more patience and a little more strength. Just enough to get me through the day, because I’m not greedy … and also because I can’t allow myself to think too far beyond whatever is happening right in front of me.

I am weary, turned inside-out, and emotionally rubbed raw. I have found myself asking aloud, when does it end? Because surely, somewhere down the road, I will have a chance to regroup before the teenage years hit. Right? Surely it doesn’t stay this exact brand of demanding forever.

And then, clarity hit. That’s what always happens — months of painful slogging, followed by an epiphany. If my life were to have a working title, it would be “I Had Another Epiphany And Everyone Eyerolled.”

I was cleaning up my daughter after another accident when it struck me that the opportunity to care for others is a sacred thing. Cleaning them, feeding them, looking after them.

Raising them.

The quieting of their cries at the sound of your voice. The endless smiles. The begging for you to sing at bedtime, when you are exhausted and want nothing more than to dump them in their beds and lock yourself in a room alone to stare in silence. But watching those little bodies relax as you acquiesce and sing “Silent Night” for the thousandth time, only walk to the next bedroom and do it all over again with the next one … THAT is a sacred experience.

That is what keeps me going.

Being a parent is hard. It’s so much work, but it is holy work, regardless of what your beliefs may be. Guiding children to adulthood is by far the biggest and most serious responsibility I have taken on in my life. I’ve had people say I must be a sad person if being a mom was the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Fuck them.

It is by far the greatest thing I have ever done, and if I can somehow manage to shepherd these kids into adulthood as functioning, mannerly, positive contributors to society … then it will be the greatest thing I WILL EVER DO.

My exhaustion is worth something. Yours is, too.

That’s all I need to know today.

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My Best Friend Brother.

If you passed by our house this evening and didn’t stop to stare at us through the kitchen windows, you missed out on quite a show.

It was 6 p.m. The boys were wild, the baby was that teething kind of cranky, and I was exhausted. Robbie arrived home excitedly trying to tell me that he won tickets to the LSU game this weekend, and I wanted to hear all about it, but couldn’t focus — the high-pitched shrieks of our third born were filling my ears. A few minutes later, I left my half-eaten dinner on the table and swept her out of her high chair for a bath.

As I got her dressed for bed, I could hear dishes clinking and voices chattering and I relaxed a little, thinking that in just a little while the kids would be in bed and I could breathe. Robbie came to tell the baby good night and lingered for a few minutes, talking to her.

And that is when the boys had a food fight.

Before we realized what was happening, our kitchen was covered in sticky white grains of rice and ketchup. It took me a full hour to clean it all up while Robbie addressed discipline. I considered briefly making them help me, but the rice coating the floor was turning into a grayish glue that got stickier the more I touched it.

It. Was. A. Mess.

As I wiped ketchup off the baseboards, my rage turned into exhaustion which turned into tears. I easily could have asked Robbie to clean up the kitchen (he had already started sweeping) while I dealt with the boys, but I was so angry I chose to be sequestered in the kitchen where no one could talk to me until I was done. And now my kitchen is spotless; the floor under the table was mopped properly for the first time since we moved here.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about how hard this phase of life is. Every year is hard, in a different hard way. They say it gets easier and I can see that it does, but “easier” doesn’t necessarily mean “not hard.” It just means “not as insanely difficult as it is right this minute.” But even as angry as I was, picking gluey, dirty rice off of my kitchen floor and pausing to wipe mascara and tears off my face (I put on an even better show than the boys did — be sorry you missed it), I was still grateful. Is this what I’ll miss one day when they are grown up and gone? Because I’m fairly certain I’m going to block it out.

When I hugged my boys and kissed them goodnight before bed, they each apologized for what they had done. Asher smiled his dimply heartbreaker grin and whispered “I sowwy, Mommy.” Maverick looked at me worriedly with his big round eyes, concerned that he’d really done it this time — he’d pushed me too far and I didn’t love him anymore.

“I love you NO MATTER WHAT, Maverick,” I said. “Now … don’t ever do that again.” And I felt his body relax.

These boys that cause me so much grief and leave so much destruction in their wake have my heart in their hands. So maybe what I’ll miss one day won’t be the cleaning up after them so much as the wide-eyed, “I’m sorry I threw ketchup at my best friend brother, Mommy, really, I am,” apologies that follow. Because they call each other best friend brother. And really … who can stay mad at that?!

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