Having kids changes things. It forces you to think beyond yourself, beyond coffee, beyond 4:00 pm, beyond dinner, beyond bedtime. You are planning and praying and cooking and cleaning, and then the next day you just hit repeat with different color t-shirts and different vegetables.
Sometimes it feels like I’m trapped in a blender, all the toys and dirty clothes and wet swimsuits and snacks all whirling around me and it just meshes together into one big smoothie of midlife. And there are times it gets culture poor, and monotonous, and just flat-out hard. I yell when I wish I didn’t and give in when I said I wouldn’t and for goodness sakes pick up your shoes and shut the stupid door and I apologize for saying stupid but I can’t keep being your maid and waitress and clothes changer and bottom wiper and still have my own freaking life. Now go to bed for the last time before I lose it completely. Some days I wish I just had a day to myself to finally get the house clean. But then I do, and I sit around wondering when they’re coming home again.
But then there are the drunken moments, when I am simply intoxicated by the flesh of our own flesh, and I can only sit on the porch and bask in the high of them, laughing and throwing their hair back and playing and waving at me with their dirty hands. “You are the best mommy in the world,” my son calls out, covered in mud, his wet shirt clinging to his chubby little tummy. I smile, because this is his world, and his happiness, and it’s all so perfect I can’t stand it. My daughter feels she’s missing out on the love so she shows off and it also makes me laugh and she goes into detail about a box of magical rocks and a house thatched out of limbs and the fact that someday she’ll be famous. The drug is so addictive that I never want it to end, so I nod and don’t say a word and try to catch glimpses of them in my soul, burning them there so that if I lose my mind I’ll have a tattoo of them on the inside.
The other night after reading book after book, hours past their bedtime, I just looked at their little sun-bleached heads and sobbed big fat momma tears, because I don’t want them to grow up and shed their baby skin and leave me. And I realize it’s my own insecurities screaming out loud and clutching my children by the necks, saying to me “You need them. You feed on their love. You aren’t worthy alone.” My daughter just hugged me and my son told me he would never grow up, and I told him that was just fine by me. And I told that voice to shut up, that I deserved this happiness without all its ugly baggage.
Because the truth is that I squeeze my eyes shut during these precious times people are always chiding me to cherish, because I am really trying to live into these days, and lean toward happiness, but it’s all too tragically good. I fear the worst, and know it will end, and I can’t seem to just be content with the flowers that my kids pluck from the earth, desiring a juice cup full of water to store them. I want ten more of this same exact afternoon, and I want to curl up in their messy hair and fat cheeks and precious little words. I tell them while they are sleeping that they are beloved, and could never disappoint me, and I fear what will happen of me when they leave. I fear the coming down from this high because it will be a bitter pill, but that’s the devil’s tongue and I see it like a rope around my own throat.
So I breathe in, and think how much I am loved, and tell myself that I am enough. If I can feel this way toward my children with the sheer immaturity of human emotion, imagine how much more my Father loves, and desires, and protects. Yes, yes. I might soon be back at work and won’t have lazy summer afternoons, but I do now, and that’s what counts. So I let it out, the breath and the fear and the anxiety. And I bask, and watch them sleep, and just utter thank you over and over until my eyelids fall.
Despite the drunkenness of love, I don’t wake up with a hangover. There is no hangman’s rope. I open my eyes to see a delighted three-year-old in my face, proclaiming that it’s morning time, and the sun’s up momma, and what are we having for breakfast? And joy again resumes, and I am reminded that this is a beautiful season in a rich life. And I tell him the first words that escape my mouth –the only words I can muster. How about oatmeal, kiddo?
A perfect answer. And the day begins again.