My daughter made me laugh yesterday.
I don’t mean in an “isn’t she cute” kind of way. I mean a genuine “she is actually funny” way.
It was just a knock-knock joke, but she nailed the timing and delivery, and it was as perfect as a knock-knock joke can get. And she made me laugh.
It was a simple moment, but it’s one I have to cling to in order to survive the heaviness of motherhood.
Being a parent is the toughest job one can ever have. It’s exhausting and consuming, and it’s all the time. You don’t get a break when you’re a parent. You may have moments when you can breathe a little easier like when you’re confident your child is finally asleep or when they’re playing by themselves without a need for your intervention. But, most of the time, there’s always something weighing you down.
How do I get my child to eat more vegetables?
Is my son being bullied at school?
Is my baby ever going to sleep through the night?
Should we be saving for college?
What if my child doesn’t get into college?
Can we afford for our son to be in both soccer and basketball?
Shouldn’t she know her numbers and colors by now?
The questions rest heavily on a parent’s shoulders, and some days it’s almost too much to find a way to carry the burdens. It’s so easy to have tunnel vision during the day-to-day struggles of parenthood. It’s easy to focus solely on the bad—the attitude, the behavior, the bad grades, or the cereal crushed into the carpet.
It is in those moments when I feel my heart begin to race, when my vision begins to cloud with worry, that I choose to fight to find joy. I force myself to find the good things in the midst of the chaos.
It’s my son climbing into my bed only three nights this past week instead of five. That is progress and is something to cling to. It’s my kids putting their dishes in the sink without being asked or putting their clothes in the hamper before changing into their pajamas. It’s my daughter singing silly songs she makes up while twirling around the living room in her favorite dress. It’s my son grabbing my hand and pulling me into his room where he’s constructed a rocket ship out of blocks and he regales me with stories about how he wants to go to outer space.
When my daughter began enunciating “l, m, n, o, p” in the alphabet song instead of lumping them all together into one super letter, that was a moment to tightly hold onto because it brought me joy. The first time my son told me he had to go potty and did it all by himself, I seared that memory into my mind and heart because it showed that I was doing something right when sometimes it feels like everything I’m doing is wrong. When my daughter told me a knock-knock joke, I embedded that moment in my memory bank. It was a moment of pure and uninhibited joy, and it is these moments, these few seconds in a 24-hour day filled with yelling and tattling and unending concern that I’m messing everything up, that I have to wrap my fingers around and hold onto for dear life.
Sometimes we have to get on our hands and knees and search for these moments where our eyes light up and we smile easily, because these are the moments that matter the most in parenthood. They are what make this job worth it. We as parents don’t get out of bed every day to referee fights or help with homework. No, we get out of bed because parenthood is full of these joy-filled moments. If we don’t stop to take them in, to let them settle in our hearts, we’re doomed to let the pain and agony of parenthood bring us down and giving in is not what we do as parents. We fight to make our lives and the lives of our children a happier place regardless of the circumstances. We fight to be happy. We fight for joy.
It’s a choice we have to make. We can choose to be bogged down by the weight of anger and uncertainty, or we can choose to look for moments of joy and cling to them.
I choose joy.