I was always that girl that dreamed of having a gaggle of kids with a white picket fence and happy husband. I fantasized about how perfect my kids would be, the cute clothes I would dress them in and what they could be when they grew up; not the sleepless nights, daily frustrations or unending list of things to worry about. I couldn't wait to be pregnant because if anyone could get this whole parenting thing right, it would be me. I mean for goodness sake, I had been working with children since I could work, I was already a stepmom and I even had a B.A. in Child Development. I was perfectly primed to replicate those magazine images of happy parents with smiling children. Ha! Then I had my first kid and that ideal, joyous image of my mom-self flew out the window and I found myself deep in the trenches wondering what the hell was I thinking.
It's no secret that parenting is challenging but there is absolutely no way you can fully understand until you are a parent. Before having kids, I thought most of my days would be filled with giggles, snuggles and kisses. Little did I know parenting is a nonstop whirlwind that tends to compound over the days with breaks that are few and far between. It's easy for me to get stuck in the daily drudgery of parenting when I am constantly repeating myself, cleaning up the same messes I picked up yesterday and spending hours in traffic shuttling kids between school and activities. I can get so caught up in the rhythm of it all that the moments of joy that pop up throughout the day easily pass me by completely unnoticed.
I want my children to be the place where I get filled up but the truth is it is often where I feel the most drained in my life. Frankly, I can't stay happily engaged with my children all their waking hours and keep my sanity. The number of mind numbing questions and just the decibel of their shrieking voices can leave me begging for the mercy of silence. I don't always have the amount of patience it takes to watch my child make a 10 minute production of towel folding or give in to my toddler's insistence on dressing herself when we are already late. Sometimes the level of exhaustion can send me into a Mommy Tantrum over the most ridiculous thing.
There are days when I work extra hard to channel Mary Poppins and then I walk into a room to find a mess that took my preschooler all of 2 minutes to make and I instantly become Cruella Deville. I am all about embracing the chaos and finding the humor in it all but some days the whole production becomes overwhelming. Once in a while I am reduced to locking myself in the bathroom until I can muster up enough patience to make it through the next part of the day and I wonder if it is just me. Am I the only mom out there struggling to keep the tone of annoyance out of my voice and the loving smile on my face?
I see myself rushing through the days and in between making meals, correcting behavior, staying on schedule and keeping myself in one piece, I often miss the moments of joy; the mischievous giggle of my toddler, simple questions from my 5 year old that make me rethink what I thought I knew, my 9 year old's corny jokes or the surprising hug from one of my step-daughters. It takes a real conscious effort to slow down enough to not only participate in these moments but maybe even go so far as to be the initiator of them.
When I check on my kids at night and I see their sleeping faces, I am reminded of how precious they are and how much I truly want to give them my best. I find myself mentally reviewing my day thinking of all the different ways I could have handled the temper tantrums, the missing homework or the eye rolls. I promise myself that tomorrow I will try to find their questions to be inquisitive rather than annoying, their messes to be fun experiments and their stubborn opinions be them learning to assert their independence. I remind myself that their qualities that tend push my buttons are the things that make them the amazing individuals they are.
I won't pretend to know the solution. All I know is that each and every day I get another chance to get it right and I owe it to my kids to try every day. There will be moments filled with fun and laughter and there will be moments when I want to wring their necks. That's just the reality of parenting. However, I can make a conscious effort to slow down enough to not only notice moments of joy my kids offer me but also create moments even if I have to fake it till I make it.