“How old is he?” She asks.
“Almost four months.”
Then she did it. She used the ‘S’ word. “Well, he should be good by now, shouldn’t he?” Should. Lovely. Yes, maybe he should. Maybe I should try telling that to him: “Hey, infant, you SHOULD be sleeping better by now.”
Of course I don’t say that. I say, “Well, he’s teething, so…” to which she nods.
The thing is, I sort of feel that way too. I sort of feel like all of this SHOULD be easier than this by now. I SHOULD have adjusted to having three children. I SHOULD have lost the weight by now, have a workout routine, a healthier sleep regimen; Deacon SHOULD be eating and napping and cooing through days like clockwork now. Mirabella SHOULD know better than to throw tantrums now that she’s six; Emerie SHOULD be used to being a middle child by now. I SHOULD be able to order our days better at this point. We SHOULD be more settled, since we’ve technically been in Virginia for almost 8 months. We SHOULD have good friends and strong connections; this SHOULD feel like home.
A former coworker used to say, “Don’t should on me.” And yet here I am, struggling under the weight of blessedly ordinary things—enormous blessings— regardless of how hard it SHOULD be. Shoulding all over myself.
It’s not that I wish I were back at work, though my children have been giving me a run for my money, least of all Deacon. And yet, at the end of even our most difficult days, I would still tell you I know I’m where I am supposed to be and that it is where I want to be. I can see that across the larger picture. Sometimes the details make me forget. The fighting sisters, the yelling I swore I’d never do, the endless feedings, the persistent rain, all of it made to feel somewhat unbearable under the weight of four months of sleepless nights.
Walking through the store today after putting an expensive bottle of sunscreen in my cart, I decided to be the change I’ve been needing.
“I am so grateful to be buying this sunscreen,” I said to no one.
“Why?” Mirabella asked.
“Because it means it’s going to be sunny.”
“Ooh, I’m grateful for that too,” Mirabella agreed.
I may not enjoy grocery shopping with three impatient children, but I’m grateful to have the money to buy healthy food for our family. I’m grateful for the growing, wiggly, healthy baby that greets me in the middle of every night. I’m grateful that weary husband of mine, burdened from working so hard for us, comes home to us every night, even if it’s later and in rougher shape than I’d like, and that next week’s business trip is an anomaly. I’m grateful for friends who get it and me, even if they are only accessible by phone. I’m grateful for glimmers of community, even if it’s taking longer than I’d planned. I’m grateful for days not yet crowded with commitments and extra-curriculars, even if they are sometimes tedious. I’m grateful to have free time with my eldest, before she starts school in the fall, even if I feel like I’m often failing at providing the challenges and structure she needs.
I know what I need, and I know I’m not in control of all of it. But I will try to choose to focus on the things I can control. I can’t control when I’ll finally sleep through the night. But I can choose to include activities in my days that feed my soul so that, even in my fatigue, I am better prepared to deal with the tasks that come. I can choose to read a book while nursing instead of mindlessly reading updates on my phone. I can choose to fill small snippets of found time with writing instead of always changing a load of laundry or sweeping a floor. I can choose to let my husband support me by telling him when I need to get out instead of complaining that I’m never alone.
This job is solitary, and many of the perks can get buried in the mundane and sheer volume of the work. The rewards are often deferred. It’s hard because it just is; spending time thinking it SHOULD be different is wasteful. Instead I’ll try to take care of myself so I am better able to care for everyone else. I’ll pray with thankfulness for strength and patience, and cover myself—and the rest of it—in grace.