We have what my counselor husband refers to as a "night routine." There is a rhythm. There is an order to things. There is a process. I sit with my baby boy in the big black and white chair which does not quite match the decoration in his room, but is the best chair for the rocking of babies. Here we sit together and he drinks a final bottle. A full tummy to get him through the night. Sometimes he drifts off before finishing and others are spent wishing the bottle would extend just a little while longer. Most nights I put him down awake and he is such a good little boy who rolls over on his tummy and drifts away. Some nights he wants to practice his standing skills and when he cannot figure out how to get down he fusses for one of us to come back. We sit some more. Tonight was different. Less than halfway through this sleeping draft, he pushed the bottle away, curled himself up, and dug deep into my chest. Soon the sounds of rhythmic breathing and a stuffy nose filled the air. He melted into me like a comforting blanket.
Tempted to gingerly stand and put him down as quickly as could be so that I could "get on with my night" I couldn't move. Instead, I put the recliner foot rest up and curled up with this little person in the quiet dark. For just a moment, I wanted to just be still, to hold on to this moment and savor it as long as possible.
When you are a mama of two little people under two years of age life is hard. Add to this the demands of work, financial pressure, a car that has long outlived its intended lifespan, uncertainty in shifting schedules, and grandma who is 18 hours too far to rescue us makes for a level of anxiety mixed with exhaustion can be nearly debilitating. Many well intentioned told me it would be this way--just how hard these years would be. These same well intentioned cannot help but now add that soon it will be better. These hard years. They will be over. Children grow. They learn to dress themselves. They take themselves to the restroom. They go to school. While these well intentioned are just that, their input rings hollow.
Tonight I could not bear the thought. This season will end, but what a shame it would be to wake up one day, knowing that moments like these will never come again, only to have missed it all. He will always be my baby, but all too soon he will no longer BE a baby. He will not fit on my torso, he will not melt into a pile of baby pudge, he will not smell of no-more tears or lavendar lotion, all of the firsts will become everyday occurances. All I have to do is look at his sister, her little body no longer one of a baby, but now a little girl. No longer does she reach for me, but instead proudly proclaims, "I DID IT!"
I do not want to wish away these "hard" years, but I want to take them in, ponder them in my heart as Mary the Mother is said to have done. I have spent my entire life "getting through" so that I can get to that ellusive moment where what is next is finally the moment where life is. I want to capture these moments and bottle them so I can drink deeply of them one day when the baby boy is now a man. I want to experience each minute, I want to taste each morsel of their lives, I want to know that I was present and for them to recall it as clearly as I do.
As we sat together in the dark, I said a quiet prayer. One of thanksgiving, one for safety and rest, one for his future. A final prayer I said for me. That I would not take for granted these years both the challenges and the triumphs. All too soon, the counselor came looking for me. Worried something was amiss. No, nothing was wrong. In fact, in this moment, all was right with the world. Even for just a moment.
So the next time I am tempted to be well-intentioned. Tempted to dismiss the hard for the easier future that is on its way. Stop. Be silent. If I must contribute to someone else's experience then I will do just that: contribute. Offer to bring by a meal. Buy an extra sack of groceries. Purchase a fift card for gas. Give my time so the one who is experiencing hardship can have a moment that is less hard. Be a friend. Lend an ear. Make some coffee.
Most of us are not bothered by what is hard. What we desire most is not to eliminate the hardship or to just get through. Rather, what we long for is the chance to just be, to take it all in, to find the beauty born of our struggle.