Days Like Today

by Briton Underwood

There are days when the door looks appealing. Kids on the floor, throwing tantrums—it just seems the perfect opportunity to slip out, get in the car and drive away. Away from the spilt sippy cups. Away from the continuous cycle of cleaning up the same wreckage day in day out. Away from the tears, the screaming, the refusals to nap.

The urge to get in the car and leave it all behind. Thoughts of an empty beach on a beautiful day, with ice cold beverages and the only sound to fill the air being the waves breaking on the sand. The salty scent filling each calming breath. A moment of peace, quiet and personal time. No kids fighting over toys or invading your personal space. Peace and tranquility, alone.

Of course, it won’t happen. The path to the door is littered with Legos and debris from a lunch that took 30 minutes to make and only 30 seconds to be tossed carelessly onto the floor. The exit is blocked, the siren wail of children forces thoughts of beach getaways out of the mind and jarringly brings reality into view.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time during infancy when toddlers seemed so simple. Others didn’t know what they were doing and the kids in this house were going to be angels. All the food would be graciously eaten, toys neatly put away and crafts done so finely Ikea would call and ask to use them in their fall catalog.

The reality is, being a parent gets harder. Days go by with disheveled hair. The only bags packed for a beach escape rest under eyes that have been open way longer than it would seem humanly possible. If those eyes don’t stay open, and the body they are attached to doesn’t stay active, then the house falls apart. Mountains of laundry would landscape a wasteland of discarded toys as Cheerios dust storms across sticky surfaces, past lakes created by upturned cups of juice.

The door looks welcoming. If it wasn’t for the blockade of little shoes in the way, escape might be possible. The feeling of water washing away the stress of being an “active” parent is tangible. Feet dug into warm sand seems more appealing than deftly sidestepping messes around a house in need of cleaning.

This is the third time this week that nap time has been completely ignored. Parents don’t get naps. They get to do dishes and clean up messes as quietly as possible, while children reenergize to wreak more destruction on the house.

When the line between good parent and mental breakdown begin to blur, the door looks nice. One more scream might just make the beach dream a reality.

Then, the clouds part. The lull in the storm occurs. A reminder of why the beach escape has never happened comes in the simplest of forms.

A smile.

A kiss.

An “I love you.”

It softens the resolve to run away. Even the worst days are softened with a gentle cuddle, under a toddler-sized blanket that doesn’t cover kid or parent. Security is found. Hope, love and sanity are momentarily restored. The feeling of tiny hands, too tiny to be able to wreak so much chaos, gripping onto the only thing that has always been there for them. In that moment, the messy house stands still, and love restored the decision not to exit stage right.

The beach tempts, although in its calming tranquility there would be something lacking: the pure joy only extracted from tender moment between parent and child.

And so, the door stays closed, the car remains in the driveway and the bags under eyes remain unpacked. It is tough. Some days border on impossible. While the private beach sounds appealing, love has crashed in, and along with it, a reminder of the reasons why leaving isn’t an option.