When I pictured in my head what it would be like to be a mom, I imagined myself sitting in a comfortable chair with a good book and a hot cup of coffee serenely watching my adorable and clean children play quietly with their toys near my feet. I’m not sure why this was what I envisioned, but it was. In my daydream there was no yelling and I didn’t ever have to physically separate children who were tangled in wrestling maneuvers due to arguments over who gets to play with what toy. Also, the fictional children never pulled on my limbs or climbed on me the moment I sat down, demanding that I read to them while I yell, “Mind the coffee! It’s hot!” And I certainly didn’t imagine that they’d run hot laps around the living room at top speeds shouting, “Mom! Hey Mom! Watch me, Mom!”
So things didn’t turn out quite how I was expecting. I can literally count on one hand the number of times my children have played quietly in the living room while I sipped a hot beverage and enjoyed their presence. I’ve become wise to the fact that if the kids are indeed playing quietly, it’s often not a good thing. Like yesterday, when suddenly suspicious of the quiet, I looked up to find my child not only outside, but also marching across the glass patio table. I had to give him a little credit though: he did remember to put his shoes on to go outside. Small victories.
I’ve noticed, however, that things might be starting to change a little bit. A few times lately, when my “mom sense” kicks in and tells me that the kids have gone too quiet and I drop what I’m doing and sprint as quickly as I can to where they’re playing, all I find is a couple of kids engrossed in a book. They turn towards me, probably questioning my sanity, while I, breathing heavily with the effort, try to casually pretend like I don’t see them and like my heart isn’t beating 120 beats per minute. Sometimes I try to capture the moment with a surreptitious photo, but if they notice me then the spell is broken and it’s back to business as usual with the kids begging to look at photos on my phone.
It’s nice to see those moments though. The ones that make the most difficult parts of motherhood fade into the background, even if only briefly. Last week, I witnessed my child, who was unaware I was watching, tenderly pick up her dolly from its cradle, proclaim that the baby took a very good nap, and then gently rock the baby in her arms and place a light kiss on top of its head. I was stunned into silence. It felt like I was seeing into the future. An image flashed into my mind of her as a grown woman caring for a baby of her own. It was a striking reminder that, if we’re lucky, children do grow up. A reminder that these challenging times, where children need what feels like constant attention and supervision, have an expiration date, and will come to an end.
With this in mind, I’ll try my best to embrace the noise and the mess, to see the humor in their antics, to let them climb into my lap whenever they want to and to read them as many books as I can. I’ll delight in the joyful parts of parenting when those moments occur, and I’ll remember that sometimes, in order to appreciate the good, we have to endure the challenges too.