One average morning as I hid beneath the covers in complete denial of the sound of little feet shuffling across the carpet, our three-year-old son peeked over the edge of the mattress at me and whispered, as always, “Mom, are you getting up?”
“No,” I whispered to him and smiled. Then, as is routine, I offered my hand to him silently requesting a quick snuggle before starting the day. He grinned and heaved himself up and over me, plopping head-first onto the center of the bed. We hugged, tickled, laughed, discussed important morning business such as chocolate milk and television, stretched, yawned, and finally agreed to get out of bed. For a quick moment as I tossed back the comforter and sheets, I watched him hunch over his feet and touch his toes. He wiggled them as though making sure they still work and said,
“C’mon, piggy toes. Wet’s go!”
I chuckled and made a mental note of this. How often do we adults have to convince ourselves – body, mind, and spirit – to get up and go? It’s just plain hard sometimes to summon the willpower to paddle onward. Life waits for no one! But hearing it from a three-year-old perspective is quite wonderful; to realize that even the youngest people seem to understand the value of a good pep talk.
* * *
I should have been 30 minutes early to our son’s preschool Christmas party to help prep, but we were five minutes late instead. I’d been up since 6 AM and couldn’t seem to pull it all together in three hours. (This is normal.) My husband goes to work early, which means I often feed, dress, clean, pack, load and unload everyone and everything on my own most days. So, we were late.
My son, the preschooler, didn’t want to go to the party or anywhere else, for that matter. My daughter, the toddler, was ecstatic to be socializing and playing outside of home and annoyed that I was constantly bothering her. I felt completely out of place among the other adults; envious that everyone else had only one child to corral while my kids were constantly running in opposite directions or clinging to my legs simultaneously; annoyed that a good friend noticed how tired I looked despite my efforts to shower, fix my hair and wear makeup; and managed to fake a smile all morning. I truly wanted to go back to bed and watch holiday movies all week, but the honey-do list was five miles long between here and Christmas, and down-time was barely a light at the end of the tunnel.
As we left the party, I basically dragged the kids, kicking and screaming, and all our stuff to the car. The boy had seemingly woken up on the wrong side of the bed this day; the girl was upset to be leaving the party; and either way they were both mad at me. When my husband apologetically told me (over the phone) that he was too busy to take an early lunch break with us – the quick breather I desperately wanted before running half a dozen errands – I sobbed quietly in the driver’s seat and tried to keep my cool in front of the kids.
(And doesn’t this describe so many motherhood moments in a nutshell?)
I’d spent the past couple weeks endlessly shopping for holiday gifts (always with children in tow), clearing and reorganizing closets and toy boxes in preparation for more things to come, cleaning and decorating our home for the season, planning our Christmas trip to visit family, running daily errands, attending or hosting gatherings, hiding gifts and convincing the little people that every package delivery was just another box for Daddy. I had hoped this last week before Christmas would be more relaxed, but instead it was the most intense. The preschool party was only the beginning of the real roller-coaster and I was already emotionally done.
Within the next couple weeks, everything seemed to continuously fall apart. Our family Christmas cards, which I’d ordered three weeks ahead of time, were never printed and, therefore, never sent. I still don’t have a clear explanation for this.
We spent four days on the road visiting our families, who all live within a couple hours from us, but in different directions. Unfortunately, due to last-minute illnesses among them, we spent two nights in two different hotels and only one night at my family’s home. We ran around like crazy chickens, spent a good deal more money than planned, and ate too many meals at restaurants, which ended up being kind of nice.
I wrapped some gifts in the back of our vehicle – because we’d decided it was more logical (space-saving) to travel with unwrapped gifts – and wrapped the remainder of them in my parents’ bedroom only minutes before the gift exchange. My husband and I also stayed up until midnight on Christmas Eve eating dessert and putting together a tiny, scoot-around bike for our daughter.
We missed or skipped both weekend and Christmas masses (for the first time ever) in order to spend more time with family, since everything had become fairly off kilter anyway. It certainly didn’t feel right, but it also did. In the chaos, we did our best and had a lovely holiday together.
And we’ve ended this wild season with viruses, strep, and an ear infection. There was no celebration whatsoever for the New Year and we’re still on the mend this week, but feeling much better. The good thing about being sick is that the days are slow and lazy. In fact, I’m fairly unwilling to get back to normal next week.
* * *
Life would be easier but FAR LESS FULFILLING without the people in my life. At the end of every day, it doesn’t matter whether or not I shopped and cooked and cleaned with demanding children at my feet; whether or not I had fun at a party; whether or not I looked as tired as I felt; whether or not we slept in hotels or wrapped gifts ahead of time or mailed Christmas cards.
It matters THAT the house is clean and chores are done. It matters that OUR KIDS had fun and they’ll always remember WE WERE THERE with them. It matters that we were tired for a DARN GOOD REASON (or several) and we earned our sleep. It matters that we were TOGETHER.
And in those moments when I’m sobbing in my car with a million things to do, I think of these people in my life and how much I LOVE THEM and want to see them smile. I cry because I can’t give up. I will not give up! And it’s hard. So I think of them and say a humble prayer of gratitude. Then I wiggle my toes, smile quietly, and give myself a pep talk… “C’mon, piggy toes. Wet’s go!”
* * *
CHEERS for the New Year and prayers that it will be every bit as fulfilling as 2018, but also, hopefully, a little bit easier. Bring it on! Happy 2019 (four days late!)