Today I met some friends in town for coffee and shopping. I ended up bear hugging my four-year-old on a bench as she screamed and kicked in a level ninety-nine tantrum. A shop owner came out of a pottery store with wide eyes, but her face softened when she saw me.
I’m so sorry I mouthed.
“You are totally fine!” She smiled encouragingly. A minute later a woman and her older daughter walked by and said, “You’ve got this mama! You’re doing a great job!”
I continued on as a human straight jacket.
I don’t find myself in these positions as much as I used to, and today my sanity stayed intact. It was partly due to the kindness of strangers cheering in my court, and it was partly because I’d already finished a double espresso on ice.
My friend said she broke into a cold sweat on my behalf though.
When the other kids got home from school they were like wild, feral children. They hollered and beat their chests and jumped on furniture like they’d never been in a house before. I shooshed them and admonished them to pleasefortheloveofgodcalmdown. It didn’t really work by the way, but we survived.
Even so, as we sat around the dinner table tonight and I looked at each of their faces, I had one of those moments where my heart was filled with gratitude.
Even though my life is notably crazy.
Even though they are wild, feral, opinionated, obnoxious, and exhausting.
I remembered why I do this. The world stopped spinning in chaos and I forgot all about my mental list of to-dos. I stopped and I saw. I watched them while they told their stories and ate their pasta. I laughed when they giggled hysterically at their own jokes.
I remembered why I chose a life of absolute insanity, instead of one where my hair is washed and my pants smell nice. I remembered why I choose to live a life of constantly repeating instructions and dragging children off of playground equipment they do not want to leave. I remembered why I don’t mind that my kids are bottomless pits forever asking for snacks.
I didn’t choose them because it would be easy, I chose them because I wanted to give my heart away to something that mattered.
I have given it away, and I never want it back.
It doesn’t really matter if I spend ten minutes hostage on a bench in public. It doesn’t really matter if I spend an afternoon corralling them like wild buffalo.
Sometimes the moments where I truly “see” are few and far between. Sometimes I find myself caught in survival and simply breathing through a tantrum so I don’t start screaming too. That’s normal, I think. I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling the pain of the life we choose. It isn’t always easy and it requires all of our strength. It requires that we show up again and again and again. It requires that we see our own flaws in the plain light of day and it is hard sometimes.
I think it’s healthy to share the struggle, because make no mistake…it IS a struggle. Pretending it’s something we can “enjoy every second of” isn’t helpful for anyone and acknowledging the struggle doesn’t make our joy or our gratitude any less.
I am so grateful to have so many moments that I do enjoy with all of my heart, and I am so grateful for the rest of it because it is all so very worth it.
I wish I could squeeze time into a bottle and save it forever.
They smell like sunshine and wild air. They are so very precious.
I chose this life, I choose it, and I will keep choosing it from now until forever.
So, my friend, whether you are having a moment of nostalgia or a moment of surviving you’re doing it right. We all have both. I am cheering you on from the sidelines…just like those ladies did for me today.
Photo by the hubs @grahamsjohnston.