In The Midst of Hard

Remember when life was easy? When everything went your way all the time and you never felt the burdens of stress or a to-do list or obligations of some sort? When you were absolutely 100 percent care free?

Me either.

But I remember thinking that in the next stage, it would be.

When I was student teaching for my degree in Early Childhood Education, my mentor teacher said something I found so profound that I still remember it to this day; “There is no harder job than the job of growing up.”

I tried to use this in my lesson plans, in my interaction with my students, in my role as caretaker. I tried to remember that even though I know that the dramas of childhood will not be a big deal later, it is a big deal then and that makes that specific part of life hard.

It’s hard to remember babyhood, and even in the carefree days of childhood we are faced with our own burdens of growing, learning, and navigating. It is indeed a hard job, this growing up.

My son already does what so many of us do; he anticipates the next stage. “When I grow up I can drive a car like Mommy and I will drink coffee.”

Isn’t that a part of childhood? Feeling lost while going through the tough stages and holding on to the comforting and hopeful thought, “I can’t wait until…..?”

This isn’t to tell you to cherish the moment because you’ll never have that time back or that kids’ have it so easy and they don’t even know what lies ahead of them, because it’s ok to live in those moments of frailty and fragileness and vulnerability and look back and know they may not have had a significant effect on your Now, but they had a significant effect on your Then.

It’s hard to find your way through growing and changing and homework and friendships and dating and extracurriculars and graduations and boundaries and responsibilities and jobs and marriages and mortgages and moving and parenthood. It’s all hard. I don’t remember a point at which it was all easy. The different levels don’t take away the presence of Hard.

But isn’t this what pushes us further?

“Next year I’ll be a 5th grader!”

“I can’t wait to go to college and have my own space.”

“I’ll be so much less stressed after these finals.”

“I can not wait to be married!”

“This job just has a learning curve.”

“Marriage is really hard.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard this parenthood thing was going to be?”

“If we had more money we could…..”

And now I’ve heard my mom say, “I just can’t wait to retire. Life will be so much easier then.”

I haven’t really found that any of this gets easier or harder, it just becomes different, but no less real, significant, or difficult.

I have stopped trying to idealize my future and my past. I am not one of those people who will tell you college is the best time of your life or kids just don’t even know what little responsibility they have because I don’t think that’s true. I think it was all hard, to different degrees, but all of similar significance for their time.

I don’t think that when my son goes to school parenting will become easier. I don’t think that my marriage would suddenly be perfect if we had more time or money. I think life is hard, and unpredictable, and nothing if not a constant exercise in the ability to find beauty in inevitable change.

So as I hang up my hat of romanticism and replace it with realism, I subscribe myself to the new task of not focusing on the ever-present Hard. There will never be a time when this is easy. But then, in the midst of the hard, there are moments, however fleeting, of perfection. Those are the moments that drive us to keep going, keep pushing on to what comes next. Because we hope that there will be moments of perfection there, too. A collection of these moments is what creates a life time, but it’s important to be honest about how they were collected. Carefully, with presence and awareness, in the midst of Hard.

I Am

I Am

I am strong and hopeful
I wonder if everything really happens for a reason
I hear laughter
I see tomorrow
I want to be happy
I am strong and hopeful

I pretend that I have it all together

I feel lost

I touch my toddler’s sticky fingers
I worry about how it will all work out
I cry when I allow myself to let go
I am strong and hopeful

I understand that life is never what we expect
I say that I can handle it anyway
I dream for all the pieces to fall into place
I try to focus on the moment
I hope that one day I will KNOW I made the right choices
I am strong and hopeful

*This poem was made with the I AM template through Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop. It’s funny the things you discover about yourself when you are given the right prompt. What would you discover if you tried?

Mama’s Losin’ It

It’s A Small World

In the course of daily life I tend to lack reflection on the big picture. My world is a constant exercise in toddler emmersion. I spend my days fixing snacks, going to activities age appropriate for a two-year old, wiping my son’s bottom, doing laundry, doing dishes, straightening the house, paying bills, and occasionally loosing myself in a book. That’s it. That’s my world. Those are my conversation pieces.

My world has become small.

This past week I visited with my family and was re-awakened to the fact that there’s so much more to the world than just the small fragment I am constantly exposed to.

There were conversations about finances, technology, master’s degrees, running, church, relationships, work. There were conversations about who we know and updates on friends doing different things like living abroad, getting married, or welcoming children of their own. There was a remembrance of life before a toddler.

I love my world of immersion. I enjoy our pace and our schedule and even my constant state of exhaustion because in the midst of it all I have a sweet little boy to love on every day.

But visits with friends and family remind me that there is so much more to this world. There are so many areas I have yet to explore. It is possible to go an entire day without talking about “the potty.” Who knew?

I am so proud to know the people in my family and the friends that carry my heart. I am so grateful for the way they choose to spend their time and that I am able to weave my story in with theirs, however so briefly, so that it becomes a part of my awareness. There was life before a toddler when my world seemed big and full of possibilities. There is life now, filled with daily tasks that sometimes make me feel that the walls of my life have closed in, and I am contained in a small existence. There will be life after a toddler when my world may once again open up to new possibilities and experiences.

So, for now, I will stay in my world of immersion and containment. And one day, when we are both ready, my son and I will each open our worlds to new possibilities and experiences. Until then, I’m enjoying this view from the sidelines.

Thank You Worm

This morning was a very fussy morning for my toddler. He fussed about getting dressed, about going potty, and about eating. He fussed about his friend coming over for a play date and sharing his toys, even though he’d been looking forward to the play date all day yesterday. He fussed at me about pretty much anything that was happening all day.

As the play date was ending, we walked his friend and mommy out to their car. Since we were outside, my little guy noticed that we needed to put more food in the bird feeder, so we did. As we were filling the feeder, he noticed a worm crawling on our walk way. “Look Mommy! A worm!! Can I get him?” he said as he picked him up. We marveled at the worm a little and then I said, “Be very careful with your worm and be very gentle with him.” “Ok Mommy!” my little one said as he ran off with his worm in hand.

I finished filling the bird feeder and straightened the hose and some things around the yard as my little guy took the worm around the yard and showed him various things. I overheard him explain to the worm that he could not crawl in the road, but he could ride in his little car. I saw him carry his worm and put him in the cup holders of his cozy coupe. I saw him show the worm sticks and leaves. Then, he came over to me and showed me that “Uh oh Mommy, my worm broke! Can you fix my worm Mommy?” He had pulled off one tiny bit of the end of the worm. “No, Mommy can not fix the worm,” I answered. “You just have to hold him very gently.”  “Ok, Mommy!” said my little one, and he was off again.

A very short time later, my dear toddler came back to me with worm segments squished all over his hands. “Mommy my worm is squish!! Mommy fix my worm!”

“I can’t fix your worm. Why don’t you wipe the pieces on the grass and we’ll go wash hands. We have to wash our hands if they have worm parts on them.” “Ok Mommy,” he responded as he wiped the parts on the grass and then followed me inside for hand washing.

Since we had made it successfully inside and it was lunchtime, I started the process of cleaning up the mess from the play date and fixing lunch. The entire time my little one followed behind me as I walked from room to room and was whining (in his most whiny voice), “My worm squish! I need my worm! Fix my worm! My worm squish. I need him!” Feel frustrated, I replied (in my not nice Mommy voice), “I can not fix your worm. You squished him. He is gone. You need to stop whining. That’s enough.”

“But I miss him!!!” came the response from my son, in almost tears. I knew I needed to change tactics. I put down the dishes I was carrying and squatted down to my son’s level. “I am sorry you are sad about your worm,” I said as soothing as possible.

“Yes, I am sad because he was be-you-full,” my sweet boy said, his eyes brimming with tears. My heart melted.

I offered,”It’s ok to be sad about your worm. But now he is in worm heaven. We can not fix him, but we can say a prayer for him. Dear God, please take care of my worm. Amen.” My sweet boy came into my arms for a big hug, and then walked over to the refrigerator magnets. “Yeah, Mommy, sometimes worms squish and sometimes Noahs get sad.”

He makes my heart smile.

Thank you, Worm, for being my little boy’s friend today. Thank you for giving your life to his exploration. And thank you for helping me to remember how important it is to cherish the little things. You were beautiful worm, and so is my little boy, even on a fussy whiny day. Thank you, Worm, for helping me remember that.