We had a bad morning yesterday. Nothing too crazy, just a lot of whining and arguing and by nine, I was about to lose it. I could feel myself losing it. Little eruptions that are only indicators, warnings, of the major disaster.
“Get in the car!” That’s it! I’m panicking now, fight or flight and all that. We have to go somewhere. We have to reset or something, break the circle of this messiness that keeps doubling back at us like a snake held by the tail, fangs flashing. We are all in danger together and I’m the mom and I have to save us and all I can think of is to yell in an ugly voice “Get in the car!”
But, it’s better than what might happen if we didn’t get in the car, all strapped and secured not touching each other and hopefully distracted by the scenery even though it’s the same we see every day. Once we were in the car, I had to think of somewhere to go and it had to be quick because the questions, I knew, would keep rushing like a flooded river trying to drown me until I did.
“Walmart.” Tuesday is my normal grocery day- ugh I have a grocery day- but Jack didn’t have preschool because of voting so I might as well make it Monday and take them both this week. I don’t know why I thought that was a good activity to calm us all down. They had one of the carts that holds two kids and I thought our luck was really changing now. It had little seats that faced each other and seat belt straps like the ones in cars. “Ages 2-6 only,” it read on the safety label. Well, Case is almost one and a half and he’s tall and as I’ve said before, a genius, so that doesn’t apply to us.
We made it and it was hard and stressful and I tried not to threaten too loudly but just loudly enough that my fellow shoppers knew I was handling my business and not spoiling my boys. There’s a lot of pressure parenting in public. And in private.
And we had the slowest cashier ever. She read every label on every item. She seemed like a lovely woman but Case was climbing on my head and breaking the sticks on those little balloons on a stick and Jack was grabbing every plastic candy contraption and showing it to me and I was sweating. One day the evil, cold-hearted guy (yes, it’s definitely a guy) who puts all that crap right there at the checkout where you’re hemmed in by carts and bound to stand waiting will have to answer to an Almighty God for what he has done and I would not want to be him at that moment. No, I would not.
So, we head back out to the car and my gosh darn La Croix canned sparkling water falls off the bottom of the cart and the box breaks open and they roll everywhere and one gets a hole in it and sprays a fountain of cherry lime carbonation all over the place. And at that moment, as I am picking them up so we can hurry and get out of the street, and as Case is standing up on the seat, a passerby who I am sure is a precious, sweet person (really, I think she is) said “It’s a shame they can’t stay this little forever.” And all kinds of unholy things went through my mind but I managed to just eek out something corny like “boy, I sure would be tired.” And I got in the car and I wanted to sob but I didn’t because I have a three-year-old who still thinks big people don’t cry and to be honest, I just didn’t have the energy for that life lesson at the moment. Mercy, it feels good to write this.
The reason I wanted to sob is because (besides being mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted from a mere shopping trip) what I heard in her words was “life is worse when they get older.” Which is obviously not what she said as she peacefully pushed her cart after peacefully buying groceries alone and prepared to get into her car and turn on whatever she wanted on the radio and probably drink a delicious Coke without sharing and getting kid slobber all over the straw.
And also, no “Mama, you’re my best fwiend,” while little arms circle your mama thighs. And then we came home and they took a nap and everything was fine. There are so many sweet times and they are so so precious. I know them as well as they can be known right now, don’t I? And I love them more than I can express. I would kill for them. I would die for them. Please understand I do not take them for granted. But in ten years when I look back to these days, I’m afraid, terrified, really, that I won’t even remember them because I’m just so tired from all the trying. Which is why I know it’s God’s grace that I have them now in the days of Instagram so I can preserve their sweet faces because He knows I would never finish a page of a scrapbook. And I just described to you how intensely I can feel stressed on one beautiful spring morning when nothing in the world is wrong because I want you to know that even then, I know I’m on Holy Ground. I know I don’t get these days back.
And the hardness has made me softer and the difficulty beyond myself has forced me to Jesus. I have learned to kiss the wave, and all that. I have purposely gotten up at five am to have time with God. I sure never did that when I was handling things myself. I didn’t know my own need until I became a mom. I thought I did but I had forgotten Him in times of abundance (Deut 8:11). This is sacred time and I know it deeply in my bones. I didn’t know it until recently. Probably because I’m not in the hardest part anymore, when they don’t sleep and your hormones are a mess and you don’t know why they’re crying and you have spit-up on your shirt and your nipples hurt. Even when I think I’m going to drown, I know I’m not because I didn’t before (or I did and He raised me up better than I was)and this isn’t as hard as then. For me. It’s different for different people, I guess.
So maybe when I’m the older lady and I see a mom with kids climbing out of the basket and her third-day hair in a mess on top of her head, I won’t imply her life is going to get worse. Maybe I will say “Hang in there, honey. Jesus loves you and one day you will grocery shop in peace. Your children are the cutest I’ve ever seen and you look so thin!” Or maybe I will have a flashback and need someone to hold me. Or, maybe my kids will still be with me and I will still be threatening them. You really never know.