“Which part?” I said, recalling parts of our day. The twenty minutes in the morning where Deacon sat contentedly in his swing, allowing me to eat breakfast and unload the dishwasher? Or the four time-outs I issued between our two older children? The time spent snuggling the baby on the couch during one of his five feedings? Or the time spent attempting to teach school with one arm with the baby attached to my breast? The blissful 15-minute shower, or the vacuuming, dusting, bathing and cooking dinner that was all accomplished while wearing a baby? The moment I welled with pride while watching Mirabella gain confidence reading independently? The one where I felt maybe I’m getting the hang of having three children while navigating Trader Joe’s, or the one where said children were loudly reprimanded by the librarian because they were playing loudly (and I was letting them)?
There are benefits to experience, of course. Intellectually, I know these particular challenges are but for a season. I can see my children’s distinct needs clearer now than when they were new to me, with my first. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I always have the emotional stamina or presence of mind lately to address them properly. Last week I heard myself-- more than once-- yell at my children to stop yelling. Really. During these long days that follow my abbreviated nights, I don’t always have the patience to connect and guide the way I know they need me to. And for that I feel terrible. We go back to the drawing board; we rethink and implement bed times, consequences, rewards. We think intentionally about quality time and the unique needs of each child. I kneel beside Emerie’s bed after a meltdown and smooth her hair and quote Lamentations over her and over me, that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning; I tell her there is nothing she could do to make us stop loving her.
Daniel pulls me away from the tasks, completes some of them for me, and looks into my eyes and tells me he sees me. He assures me that even though I am so worn down, even though my job feels so endless, so unnoticed, even though I don’t recognize my body or my temperament, even though I can’t really see myself right now, he can. He reminds me of the gravity of these jobs but also that this all shall pass, and I know that’s true. There are so many glimpses of beauty wrapped up in the ordinary. Emerie recently announced at dinner, “You know, Mommy is our superhero.” Mirabella nodded, as if this were a well-known fact. They say all sorts of silly things that make us laugh, but this one made me tear up.
I can’t fit into any of my pants, and I am reliant on Visine and under-eye concealer to make me look more like a human than a zombie. I can’t manage to return a phone call to my mother in law. I can’t take for granted my ability to get out of the house on time or with any semblance of order—I never know when a day will veer into territory where I might not be able to get it back under control. I am stil learning our newest little person, who is still learning everything. I don’t always know what makes him upset or calm, never really know when he might lose it completely. For that matter, I never really know when I might lose it completely. There are highs and lows countless times in a day.
But each day as I drag myself to the coffee pot, make my bed when I’d rather climb back in, feed my family three home-cooked meals, manage to get out of my yoga pants, sacrifice the time and energy and sleep and weight loss it takes to breastfeed my baby, fold another load of endless laundry, pray over my tiny son in the dim light of his room, carve out time to snuggle my daughters and manage gentleness in my correction and guidance when I’d rather give up, I remember this: Those precious girls think I’m a superhero. And so I carry on, knowing the monotony of these moments belie the significance of these days.