I’m on vacation this week, staying in a one room cabin with my three littles (ages 7, 4 and 1) while the two older boys are full-fledged summer campers. Right now the baby is napping in a pack-n-play in the bathroom.
That’s right. In the bathroom.
There’s been several moments this week where I’ve shaken my head and thought, “I would NEVER have done this with my first.” Pack-n-play in the bathroom. Oreo cookie to keep the littlest quiet when he wakes at 5 a.m.and the girls sleep delicately just a few feet away. Pacifier dropped in the dirt and brushed off casually, then popped back in. The baby gnawing on bacon at breakfast while the preschooler has another bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the older girl lathers on cream cheese like it might give her superpowers if she can somehow eat a pound by 9 a.m. I’m surprised by my level of innovation, perspective, and all around chill. We’re winging it but it’s working.
I don’t know why I’m still caught off guard by my life, as if every day I wake up surprised by where I am. You’d think a decade into this journey, it would all be par for the course. But motherhood in general continues to surprise me.
I didn’t expect it to be so tiring, to ask so much, to feel so worn down and amped up by the every day of it all.
I didn’t expect to feel so fragile, to have so many moments where I don’t know what to say.
I didn’t know I’d laugh so much, feel so deep, love so fiercely that it makes my stomach turn a bit.
I thought I’d be more like the Cruise Director Mom, here’s-our-next-event-and-give-me-a-sec-to-set-up-a-craft. Instead I’m all, “No glitter. Go outside. Read a book. Figure it out.”
And those are just the obvious things, the ones that are easy to mention with a laugh or a nod or a brief bout of introspection. But deep down inside, there’s the soul-level surprises.
I didn’t expect to be so selfish, didn’t think it possible to resent a crying baby and pray for sleep and sleep and sleep like it’s air.
I didn’t know that their futures would hover like my own personal raincloud.
I didn’t know that the news, any news- a toddler kidnapped or a baby lost to SIDS or a preschooler fighting cancer- would evoke in me a welling of tears and a sympathy so deep and personal. That could happen to us. Jesus, help us. Help them. Have mercy.
I never imagined that a teenager who had such a strong case of wanderlust would fight the urge to build a fortress and fill the moat and lock us all in.
I didn’t know that miscarriages would mark in such a deep place, like a red-hot branding on a dusty corner of my heart.
I didn’t know that there would be days where I’d wake up and feel like a shadow- a shadow of what I was and what I thought I’d become. I didn’t know motherhood would consume my mind like light flooding a dark room. I didn’t know that I’d have to fight so hard to still find me in the midst of all these little people, this adorable flurry of chaos that needs to eat all the time.
I didn’t know I’d need my husband so much.
All that and more. So much more. Where do you stop and where do you start and at what point do you just admit that maybe growing up in general is not what you thought it would be.
I wrote a piece on motherhood once, and several years later it still rings true for me. It’s a quiet revolution, a belief that all this matters and that I’m all in.
So I’ll take my vacation days in stride. I know now what I didn’t know ten years back: that an oreo won’t kill a baby and that what you do in survival mode will not ruin the rhythm of your family and that time with faraway loved ones is well-worth a sleepless night or two or six.
I know now that no one has this parenting thing down perfectly and that we’re all doing our best and that parenting out of grace and humility will do heaps more than parenting from a place of perfection and fear.
I know that I’m not awesome but I’m enough. So enough. Completely enough. That’s perhaps been the hardest and the most hard fought lesson. The enoughness of me + Jesus to care for littles. We got this, He and I.
I know now that my parents are even more incredible that I realized, that I need about 6.5 hours of sleep to be nice, that coffee is truly the nectar of the gods.
If I knew the lessons still to come, I’m sure I’d be terrified. I don’t want to know how it all turns out, what the years will ask of us, what my children will face. I’ll take the coming days like the ending to a good book, and prefer to be surprised.