The other night as I was unloading the dishwasher, my little helper toddled over to offer her assistance. I have never felt so much stress putting away plates. Chloe’s hands were attracted like magnets to anything sharp and anything breakable. I hurriedly grabbed all of the knives out of the dishwasher and began putting them away, but as I was trying to complete that task, Chloe was reaching for glasses. As I shoved the knives in the knife block, I quickly reached back to grab the glass from her hand. Now that the knives were put away, I scrambled to get all the plates, glasses, and coffee cups before Chloe’s slippery fingers could touch them.
She didn’t understand the concept of the hand-off. Chloe would grab one item, hand it to me, and let go before my fingers had actually grasped it. Lids to pots dropped to the floor, the loud clamoring sound filling the house. Forks and spoons joined them. I did my best to balance the dishes she gave, to juggle what was going in the cabinet and what I was receiving from Chloe’s hands, but inevitably something would fall. My hope was that nothing would break.
Lately, my days feel like this dishwasher incident. As I try to do one thing, I have someone adding to my hands that already feel full. I rush to the cabinet in the hopes of putting away one object so that I can take on another. I know my hands can’t hold everything. I know I’m not an expert juggler. And every day, my prayer is that when something falls from my hands, it will be the lid from the pot and not the coffee cup.
Last Sunday, Matt and I met a nice woman at Publix. She and I were discussing the different kinds of sugar in the baking aisle when Chloe let us all know the extent of her hunger. As I tried to pacify Chloe, holding her in my arms while the other two sat on the bench of the largest, most awkward shopping cart in the world, I overheard Matt telling the woman the ages of our children. The woman locked eyes with me again and told me, “I feel you. I had three children in four years. I know.” But then she went on. “Enjoy this time. Because then they will be teenagers and want nothing to do with you, and before you know it, they will be grown up and out of the house!”
I have been given this advice before, and honestly, I grow weary of it. I’ve developed a term for it–“The Grandparent Syndrome.” The people who seem adamant that I enjoy this time are almost always grandparents or people who wish they were grandparents. Their children are grown, and they look fondly on the years when they had little ones giving them hugs and kisses, telling them that Mommy and Daddy are their best friends. They remember children swinging on swings and sliding down slides and pictures hung on the refrigerator with stick figures and the letter ‘e’ turned backwards. And sometimes, they are looking through rose-colored glasses.
I don’t like being told to enjoy this time because I don’t want to feel guilty when I’m not. Honestly, many days are not enjoyable. Even though they say they do, I’m not sure these well-meaning individuals remember exactly how tired they felt every day.
I think they’ve forgotten wondering how poop got on the door jam in the bathroom and the frustration at not having any more hiding places short of the roof for sweets. They’ve forgotten what it feels like to have the one time of the day at six a.m. which was their time interrupted over and over again and wishing that six a.m didn’t have to be their alone time to begin with! They’ve forgotten what it feels like to juggle coffee cups, shattering some to the floor on days when they lost their temper with a three-year-old or days when they were too exhausted to play.
They only remember the cute faces looking back at them from the preschool pictures they have tucked away in family photo albums, and they miss those chubby arms that used to reach around them and squeeze. They see their beautiful grandchildren and giggle and bake cookies and miss the time they spent with their own children. Except every day wasn’t cookies and giggles.
As if to combat the well-meaning words that sometimes sting, other parents who are not that far removed from my situation have their own words to offer: “It gets easier, I promise.” I cannot tell you how many parents of three close together in age, parents I have never met, will lock eyes with me in the park and tell me these words. They remember the juggling act, and they want to bring hope. And they do. Through their words they are telling me that it’s okay to feel tired and frustrated because there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m not against enjoying this time. In fact, I started writing my ‘Focus On It Friday’ posts because I wanted to make sure that no matter how rotten of a week I had, I always remember something for which I can give thanks. I blog because I want to remember the beautiful moments with my family, the invaluable lessons that they teach me. But I also want to remember the struggles and the harsh growing pains I experienced as I took the journey as a parent.
Not every day is enjoyable. Some days, even some seasons, just suck, and being able to admit that fact is freeing to me. My goal as a mother is to treasure the good moments in every season, not longing for the future, and not holding on to the past. I want to make the best of the present, and during the times when the juggling act gets more challenging than I can handle, I want to become an expert at using the broom.
Because whether I’m enjoying the day or not, I have three little ones who need a mother for guidance and learn from how I handle the broken dishes. And whether I’m enjoying the day or not, I know how blessed I am to be able to take the next breath and unload a full dishwasher.