The other night, my husband kept texting, “leaving any minute” and “be home soon” and “just waiting for the bus.” It was almost 7:00 before he got home. I’m not sure if I was tired, the kids were tired or if it was a full moon, but by the time he walked in, I was ready to walk out.
I get to the end of my rope regularly. Life with young children jumps from amazing and awe-inspiring one moment to out-of-control and exasperating the next. I have an up and down personality, and my highest highs are followed by crashes of the lowest lows, all within one rotation of the minute hand on the clock.
The other day my children were playing together on the top bunk in my son’s room. They cuddled on the pillows with their stuffed animals and blankets, both giggling and squirming around like Labrador puppies. My son made his little sister laugh hysterically and she tickled him under his chin and teased him back; a real sibling love fest. I smiled and felt all warm inside and proud of the beautiful healthy kids I was raising. All was well.
Seconds later I turned away to brush my teeth and the whole scenario cratered. Laughs turned to screams. Giggles turned to cries. Snuggles turned to grabs and pushes. Toys flew across the room. My heart raced and blood boiled as I jumped to separate the two before someone fell off the bunk. Both kids were crying. It was the end of the world, in preschooler land. It was one of those moments when I just wanted to quit.
Growing up, if I didn’t like something, I quit. I quit competitive swimming, gymnastics, ringette, art classes and who knows what else after a few years each because I wasn’t a star at them. My world was very black and white. Do the enjoyable and easy things that I could excel at. Avoid the difficult things. That philosophy was fine when there was just me to worry about. It even worked with my husband in the picture, for the most part.
The months (and years) after becoming a mother were the hardest of my life so far. I’m not really sure how I made it through those years of terrible sleep deprivation. My fierce love for my newborn son (and then three years later, my daughter) taught me that just because something is really, really hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. The wondrous little children that were created and carried and loved and rocked and fed, sometimes with my tears blending in with theirs, are mine to keep.
I’ve learned that wanting to quit is normal; anyone who tells you parenthood is blissful perfection is a liar. Parenting babies and young children is like riding a ferris wheel that never stops. But there’s no smiling man at the bottom to push a button if you want to get off to catch your breath.
All we can do is embrace the high highs and perfect moments, fleeting as they may be. Breathe them in and take lots of pictures. Cuddle up to our son’s snuggly warm cheeks. Trace our daughter’s dimples with our fingers and hold her tiny feet in our hands.
Freeze the perfect moments in our memory so we can bring them back to our mind during the times when everyone is screaming, and we’re trudging through a dreary day and the ferris wheel is scraping the bottom again.