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Challenge: Get Happy!

Finding Ways to Cherish These Days, Even the Stressful Ones

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It was 3:00 in the afternoon and for all intents and purposes, I was about spent. My two kids and I had gone to the library for storytime that morning, followed by a big lunch out with our cousins. My youngest fell asleep on the way home and I was able to transition him quickly to his crib, where he settled in for a long nap. My four-year-old had been nodding off on the car ride, so I thought the rest of the afternoon would go easy peasy. I’d tuck my son in, lie her on the couch with a movie and finally settle in myself to catch up on some overdue emails.

Yet, like most kids her age tend to do, my daughter sensed that I wanted to work. She could also tell I wanted her to nap and I didn’t have the patience in me to coax her to sleep like I used to. As if like clockwork, she began to tug at my shirt to play. First, she wanted to play dolls. But they were upstairs and we couldn’t go up there and awaken her brother. Then, she wanted to play jump rope but her feet bouncing on the hardwoods were too loud. No television show was good enough, nor was any book. For about half an hour, I tried to balance it all. I’d respond to an email with one hand, and let her check my other arm with her doctor kit. I’d listen half-heartedly as she recited one of her many made-up stories, all while chatting online with my remote co-workers.

As anyone who’s ever tried to juggle two incredibly demanding tasks at once can tell you, that charade didn’t last too long. The truth is, I simply can’t do it. I’ve never been much of a multi-tasker, but trying to explain to someone on the other side of the country the details behind our monthly sales budget while also playing dress-up and dolls is just about impossible. So, after struggling and failing for so long, I finally just decided to focus on my daughter. I shut my laptop and immediately, a look of relief and gratitude spread across her face. She hugged me and all of her restless antics came to a halt. She melted into my arms and just about fell asleep on the spot. Turns out, trying to keep mama entertained and occupied is a pretty exhausting job.

As she rested her head on the pillow beside me, I remembered just how important my role was, and how fleeting it was as well. I won’t always be this needed. There will be times when I’ll be able to go home, plug in my laptop, and work as long as I want to without interruption, because she’ll be away at college, or living somewhere else with her own family. It might drive me batty when they cling to me, chat incessantly or refuse to nap, but starting today, I’m not looking at parenting like a duty. Yes, it might take a barricade, a time out and an insulated door for me to be able to find a moment’s peace sometimes. Yet, when I consider that life as a mom can be be peaceful even amid the chaos, I’m so much less stressed. In fact, I’m a calmer, kinder and more patient mom than I’ve ever been and my kids can tell.

Yes, parenting is exhausting. There are days when I can’t text my friends or my husband enough frustrated face emojis and I look forward to bath time and bedtime like it’s a piece of chocolate cake. Still, I know that if I keep putting them first, even if it means letting my other balls in the air momentarily drop, that I’ll find the calm I’ve been so desperately seeking. We’re not meant to do it all, it turns out. We’re not meant to be moms of all trades and masters of none. Rather, we’re just called to do one thing, and what an honor and privilege it is to rise to that calling. Tomorrow, I have big plans to sit on the floor and play paper dolls. We may go pick the garden, or check to see how our blueberries are doing. Or, we may just sit and talk and ask each other questions. Regardless, I’m giving it my focus and my all, and in doing so, I’m teaching my children that the best things in life, the things that comprise the very rich marrow of it, are to be savored and not pushed aside. They are to be embraced and fully accepted, even if a few things fall to the wayside along the way.

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