So much of this motherhood gig seems to be learning to live from one now-THATS-what-I-dreamed-this-would-be-like Happily Ever Moment to the next, and not letting the incredibly messy, hard work in between make me forget them. So much of this life of mine seems to be about choosing thankfulness and contentment with what is before me. (That and asking for, needing, diving deep into, and resting in Divine Mercy, all the way, all the time!)
The after-dinner bedtime routine is definitely one of the messiest parts of the day in our family of seven. Michael and I sometimes just plop down on the couch together for a minute and kind of chuckle and psyche ourselves up good-naturedly before officially starting those evening proceedings. The craziness is often laughable, but it creates a sort of co-dependent, let’s-get-this-done, we’re-in-this-together camaraderie. Bedtime is cycling kids through baths and showers like drill sergeants; chasing down clothes-less toddlers to put a diaper on; making sure so-and-so gets his special medicine for this or that rash; tripping on toys repeatedly, hurrying up the one child who is the kind of lollygagger that always makes any nearby objects start talking in high voices to each other; breaking up a fight over the last swish of mouthwash; breaking up six other fights; checking on my phone that is drying out in rice from when the one year old threw it in a toilet; finding so-and-so’s right pajama bottoms; making sure nobody tells us they brushed their teeth and really didn’t; deciding if we care enough about teeth that night to ask.
But here’s the kicker: Mixed right in there, just about every single night, are some of the most incredibly precious moments of parenthood. Watching an older sibling read a book to a younger sibling. That heartwarming moment when your two-year-old runs up to you for just one more hug and whispers, “I luh you,” for the first time ever. Impromptu tickle fights. Running outside in our pajamas to see a giant full moon together in the street. My nine-year-old shyly asking if he can stay up after family prayer and finish reading aloud that chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with me.
A single hour of this life of mine might find me tearing up with joy, tearing up with frustration, and doubled over with laughter.
I am clearing the table from breakfast, and I look over and see four out of five kids dancing in pajamas to “Happy,” which somebody has asked Alexa to play. A couple of minutes later I might notice that yes, my potty training toddler is getting closer to getting pooping in the potty! He pooped on the trainer potty! I grab some Lysol wipes and the M&Ms, stuff ten M&Ms into my mouth really quickly while nobody is looking, and call it a win.
A few minutes later, one of the little guys is running up and down our long kitchen wearing winter gloves, a foam sword, a butterfly mask, and a superhero cape out flowing out glamorously behind him. Somebody else is clumping through the kitchen, grinning madly, half-dressed with daddy’s shoes on. When I throw the trash bag from cleaning up the trainer potty outside the back door, there is a pretend stethoscope lying in the middle of the patio, next to a sippee cup of curdled milk from a couple of days ago and a foam piece to somebody’s bike helmet and a paper plate and a flip flop and a teething rosary. The kids start screaming my name to come see the butterfly that landed on Faith’s finger. Apparently it looks “just like” the ones we raised with our butterfly kit and released a few weeks ago.
I sneak away into my room later for a five-minute Mommy Break and see three elaborate Lego creations on my bathroom counter in a clear hostage situation with a My Little Pony figurine and a T-Rex tied together with a dog leash. I make a mental note of the shoe one of the big kids has been missing for a week peeking out from behind my trashcan. A stack of the kids’ library books from when somebody was reading in my room during rest time graces my dresser next to my bridal portrait. A large unicorn puzzle is still on the floor in the corner of my room from when the kids did it last week and begged us to “leave it together for a while.” I suddenly hear sweet childish voices in the front of the house singing a praise song they learned at VBS this summer. But then there’s some kind of scuffle and that one particular child’s trademark delayed wail of pain.