Last week, I had two different women tell me something along the lines of “I miss those days.” I forget exactly what the context was. I know the first time I was getting out of my car. I don’t know if the kids were fussing a little or if I just looked frazzled, or if the comment just came as a conversation starter. I do know that whenever people ask me how I am, I’m not one of those people who will just say “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” I actually tell people how I’m really feeling. But if I feel badly and don’t feel like complaining, I usually just give them this really wide-eyed, teeth clenched sort of grin, which is a picture of how I feel quite often right now, parenting two kids in diapers. I think that when I heard this comment the second time I was in a grocery store or something. I know I had made it obvious somehow that I was having kind of a rough time, and the comment came back, “You’re going to miss it someday.” I just gave that same wide-eyed smile. I told both women the same thing. I said, “I’m looking forward to the day when I’m going to miss it.”
This isn’t one of those essays on what not to say. I have read a lot of those in my day, and I’ve liked them. I’ve snickered at them and forwarded them to like-minded people. You may have read them: “10 Things Not To Say To A Pregnant Woman.” “7 Things Not To Say To Those Struggling With Depression.” And the like. Those that are close to me know that I’m pretty sensitive, so these “don’t say” essays have really resonated with me. But in year or so, I’ve changed my mind. I feel that our culture right now spends so much time thinking about what not to say, and not nearly enough on what actually should be done. My own brain is drawn to the negative, and the constant exposure to negativity is not helping me to rewire it. It’s just so much easier to fixate on the negative. What about the positive? What happens to it? Where does it go when my brain is rounding its cycle of negative thinking again? As I reflect on this, I know that the heart of what these women wanted to share with me is that there is beauty and wonder and treasure in these days. One day, I know that I really will miss them. But this essay isn’t about that either.
I really meant what I said to those ladies that I’m looking forward to the future, because it means I won’t have today’s daily struggles. I’m getting a little teary eyed right now, thinking about this feeling, of how a part of me wants to wish away the present when I don’t like it. Yes, sometimes I really do want to fast-forward to the day when things are going to be easier. When my kids are a little more independent, when I have more than 20 minutes to myself, when they’re in school and I have – how many hours is that? I can’t even think, because it’s so crazy to imagine having a full day to myself. A day where at least my body is my own. No kids tugging on me, hanging out nursing, climbing on me. Sometimes I’m jealous of my husband that he gets to go to work. He gets to spend time edifying others through the work that he does. I’m jealous of friends with part time jobs, especially teachers. I start to think about what I missed about working full time. I could go on, because it’s just so stinking easy to think about the negative stuff. It also doesn’t help that no matter how many times people tell me that I’m going to miss these days, no matter how many articles I read encouraging me to just sit in the moment with my kids and enjoy them, I am still going to have very rough days when I want to press the fast forward button. Days when I forget that my children are real people, and being with them is a good work, and that I really do like their hugs. I don’t like that it’s so easy to find myself with my finger hovering over the fast-forward button.
On the other hand, It’s not always like this. My toddler and I have similar interests. He absolutely loves letters and words, and I get to speak Spanish with him, and we’re even trying to learn a bit of German. He asks me to read “Mama’s German book.” It’s really fun! He’s starting to repeat words from songs. The other day I was singing an alphabet song and he said, “Good song, mama.” He responds to my energy. The baby is a happy little guy. He’s always smiling. He loves to look at you and watch people. Big brother makes him burst out laughing like nobody else, and the toddler has just recently started wanting to give him hugs and interact with him more. For most of the six months of baby brother’s lifetime, big brother has just ignored him. It’s really fun to see how they are starting to interact. Parenting is fun a lot of the time.
When it comes down to it, as much as sometimes I joke about wanting to press the fast-forward button, I never would. That’s because I can make decisions that are apart from my emotions. I really do feel like I want to press it sometimes, but I wouldn’t.
There’s also something that I’m grateful for now that I didn’t always have: a very strong support network. Our kids have awesome grandparents that are always there for us. I have friends that I enjoy and that enjoy me, that encourage me, that are walking, many of them, in the same life stage that I’m at. I also have some friends that are just beyond where we’re at now, friends that are empathetic, not far enough from the two-kids-in-diapers stage to have forgotten what it was like, but far enough away that as I watch how they interact with their older kids and I realize that wow, I really am looking forward to that. I have a husband who helps with the kids, helps with stuff around the house, engages me in authentic, genuine conversation, seeks the Lord, seeks forgiveness when he messes up, has the courage to confront me when I mess up in a big way and also has the grace to let it go when I mess up in a minor way. I also have a relationship with an amazing God. I have a God that even in those low moments, those moments where I’m longing to press the fast-forward button, he tells me, “It’ll be okay.” He tells me that he has a plan for me. He tells me that while it may take a while for me to see what the plan is, that one day I will. Other people can tell me these things but it means so much more when it comes from God, because no one knows my heart and my purpose in the world the way that he does. He’s the only one that can really help me through this, after all, and I’m thankful that he’s put people in my life to share his words with me, through their encouragement, through their companionship. I don’t know how I would get through this stage of my life without God. I don’t know how anybody does.
In other news, I’ve been walking more. I really love that walking gives me time for introspection and prayer. The other day I came in from a walk and I sat down to read my Bible. I opened it haphazardly to the page with this verse: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7) I thought that was beautiful. The path that I’m walking has a lot of detours, but I’m choosing to do the best I can to stay on the path God has for me. It’s a bright path, with lots of space for people to walk side by side with me. Some people are walking a little in front. Some are walking a little behind. Some come in step with me for a little while. Some are camped out with me for the long haul, strapped into the stroller that I’m pushing in front of me.
I’m still looking forward to the day when I’m going to miss these days, and with effort -- with affection and love that sometimes leads me to tears, with a resolve that varies between frustrated reluctance, a joyful eagerness, and quiet peace -- I’m learning to enjoy these present days too.