“Mom, can you help me tape this?” Andrew asks.
“Not right now, sweetie. Do the best you can, okay?” I respond, holding a screeching baby with one arm and a basket of dirty laundry in the other.
It’s ten o’clock and nobody is dressed yet, the baby is as cranky as he’s ever been, and I didn’t get more than two hours of sleep in a row last night. My husband is out of town and a too-high smoke alarm beeps every three minutes. I think it needs a new battery.
Toys cover the floor. I think of my neighbor and her always tidy house. How does she do it? I use my foot to forge a path through the toys in the living room, and make my way to the stereo.
Turning up the music, I try to warm the mood in our home, which at the moment teeters somewhere between difficult and total chaos. I grab Benjamin’s cozy blanket and binky, and sit down on the floor to cuddle him. We sing along to the music, and the dark cloud lifts just a little. I manage to help Andrew with his project.
“Today is a hard day,” Andrew tells me. “Benjamin won’t stop crying.”
“Yeah,” Bryce agrees, “it’s giving me a headache.”
“Yes,” I agree, “it is a hard day. Today is a ‘let’s just do the best we can’ kind of day.”
Lord, I pray, be present with us on this hard day. I give you my agenda — the laundry, the sticky floor, the scattered toys, my need for a nap. Please give me your perspective for today.
The only magic in this prayer happens in my own attitude. The house is still a mess and the baby is still fussy, but my attitude shifts. I stop looking at the mess and start looking at my three boys. It seems like just yesterday Bryce and Andrew were Benjamin’s age. Now look at them! Big kindergarteners! I hold Benjamin closer. Suddenly, it is enough to sit on the floor in my pajamas and simply be with my children.
I think of how much energy I spend trying to avoid this hard place. I plan activities ahead of time, stay up late to catch up on laundry, and make meals in advance. I don’t like feeling out of control. But the truth is, no matter how much I plan ahead, sometimes motherhood is hard. No amount of planning ahead can prevent toddler meltdowns and messy houses. They’re a fact of life with three small children.
What I can do is prepare my heart to embrace these children as they are. To spend less time planning for what might come next and simply embrace what is — this moment with my boys.
On some days, this is the best I can do. And it is enough.
Robyn Whitlock has three boys, Bryce (7), Andrew (7) and Benjamin (2). When she's not running to carpool or doing laundry, she writes. You can find her online at llamamomma.blogspot.com.