Every time I see that “You will never have this day with your children again” quote on Facebook , I feel a twinge of guilt.
I have five kids and I travel for my job and my husband is a teacher and a coach. People who don’t know me personally assume I’m a parenting expert with a system and a process for everything. That I manage it all really well, with a smile on my face and an unwavering sense that we’re blessed. That I cherish the one-on-one time I get with each child because it’s so limited.
I mean, I have moments of clarity, where I realize how amazing this life is. But, mostly, depending on the schedule and sleep and how much coffee I’ve had, I just think, “This is freaking hard.” That the kids are nuts. That we’re nuts. And that the dog (because every mom with small children needs a 90 pound Weimaraner with attachment issues) is definitely nuts.
Then I see it: “You will never have this day with your children again.”
It popped up in my Newsfeed last Wednesday. I’d flown back late the night before and agreed with my husband prior to boarding the plane that I would stay home the following day with our 4-year-old son, who was sick with the “Are you kidding me, it’s April?!” stomach flu.
We woke up that morning and I drug the feverish boy with me to drop off the oldest two at school. On the way home, he asked to drive by a building downtown that had recently caught fire.
His siblings had seen it and he hadn’t and even though I didn’t want to take the time, I thought, “You will never have this day with your children again,” and I sighed and I went out of my way and drove by.
Given that his eyes barely meet the bottom of the back window, he couldn’t see much. He asked me the same question 11 times—“Did Keaton and Hutty see the fire?”—to which I responded “I’m not sure, buddy” 10 times and then, finally, “Nope,” just to end the conversation.
Satisfied, we headed to the house, and walked inside, agreeing he would lie down to watch cartoons in our bed. Which he did. For about three and a half minutes. The next eight hours were an every-90-seconds-he-wanted-to-do-something-different blur of “I’m bored!” and “I’m hungry!” and “I not like that!” and “This show (Care Bears? Really?) is scary!” and “When daddy comin’ home?, all intersected with my texts to the outside world of “I’m seriously going to lose my mind.”
Rather than making me all gooey and appreciative, the “You will never have this day with your children again” quote simply kept us both alive.
At 5:30, with the school-aged kids back home and the oldest in charge (armed with a phone), I threw on my running stuff and prepared to dart from the house—no iTunes, no ear buds, just a handful of miles to escape the “Mom!” (I live in a Catholic neighborhood—watching folks walk up the block to mass on Sundays, positive our family name will be mentioned in prayer and confession—so the idea that I wouldn’t hear “Mom!” somewhere along the way was a total crapshoot.)
Before I could escape, the now-recovered boy stuck his foot in the back door, yelling, “Mom, Keaton not letting me talk to her!”
Leave it to a 10-year-old girl to come up with the ultimatum I couldn’t.
“You will never have this day with your children again.”