What is it about having small children that prompts strangers to offer unsolicited words of wisdom?
No, kind lady at Target, I’m not sure I want to hear your birthing story—though I’m sure it’s got the entertainment value of an action film—I’d prefer my curious seven-year-old not have nightmares tonight.
So I’ve been keeping my sister’s newborn baby girl one day a week for the last few months. Harlie Grace (HG) is simply perfection. I also have two kids of my own, the seven-year-old, Lilah, and a three-year-old, Ezzy.
A few days ago, Ezzy and HG were taking an afternoon nap. (Isn’t it amazing how getting two kids to nap simultaneously makes you feel like a superhero? I almost made myself a bedazzled cape.) My three-year-old rarely naps anymore, so I was euphoric.
Now, Lilah’s bus drops her off the bus stop at 2:40pm. Ever since the Mom-Missed-The-Bus-Drop-Off debacle of ’14, I watch the afternoon clock with manic intensity. And, wouldn’t you know it, Ezzy kept sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping. 2:35pm hit and HG woke up with an acute need for a bottle.
Cue The Chaos:
2:35pm – Baby screaming
2:36pm – Bottle is inserted in baby’s mouth (not quickly enough for her liking, as she takes turns wailing and gulping)
2:37pm – My shoes have grown feet and walked right on out of my house
2:38pm – Ezzy won’t wake up after multiple attempts or with a still-screaming infant in her room
2:39pm – I hear the telltale screech and motor combination that means the bus is in the neighborhood
2:40pm – I literally RUN to the end of my driveway, in my pajamas, barefoot, a crying baby in my arms, and an unsupervised three-year-old napping in my house
PLEASE JUDGE ME. I DESERVE IT.
I realized, in that moment, that the cherry on top of my shame sundae was the fact that the nightgown I had on was the precise one I had picked up Lilah in the previous day.
As my pre-teen schlepped off the bus, she sprinted by me, grumbling, “MOM, YOU ARE SOOOO EMBARRASSING!” And over HG’s yelps, I did manage to hear the bus driver as she opened her window to say to me (AKA to scold me) “I really hope you’re enjoying this season of life. They grow up so fast.”
Well, thanks, lady bus driver. Because I’m not really enjoying it right now. In fact, can I get on that bus and be dropped off at your next stop, because I do NOT want to enter my house again for at least 24 hours?
Listen, I know how blessed I am to have young kids. I have personally experienced the hollow ache that occurs in the wake of a miscarriage, and I love my girls with an almost unhealthy intensity, but parenting in this phase is HARD. It hurts. It’s exhausting.
It can feel like you never measure up, like you’re never doing enough. Like it’s a competition and you’re losing.
So here’s my unsolicited advice to parents of young kids:
IT’S OKAY IF YOU ARE NOT PARTICULARLY IN LOVE WITH THIS SEASON OF LIFE.
Along those lines, here are a few other things that are okay.
It’s okay if you count down the minutes until naptime.
It’s okay if you hide in the pantry and eat chips topped with squirt-cheese as a coping mechanism.
It’s okay if you go to work and it feels like a vacation.
It’s okay if you don’t discipline with complete perfection for every act of domestic terrorism our tiny psychos so creatively execute.
It’s okay if your kid’s art project looks like a sad homage to the glittery Disco-era.
It’s okay if you pick up your kid two days in a row in the same pajamas. (But if it’s day three . . . the jig is up. Call in reinforcements.)
It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.
It’s true – they grow up fast and it’s important to look for joy every day. But that’s really hard to do when you’re just trying to survive.
In a few years, I’ll look back on this phase and smile. I’ll miss my kids’ chubby elbows and awkward teeth. I’ll miss holding a baby and the way Ezzy can’t pronounce her Rs.
Because there definitely is something magical about every age, every stage, and every season. But it’s OKAY if today you’re ready for tomorrow.