No doubt about it, being a parent of small children changes the way you experience the world, and it's not always obviously for the better. From the minute that baby comes out, you are a slave to its needs. Once you survive beyond that initial, exhausting phase, you are still tightly constrained by naps, eating needs, schlepping a mountain of paraphernalia wherever you go, and early bedtimes. Ignore these at your own peril.
This past Thanksgiving, we enjoyed small, stolen bites of a cold meal while managing cranky kiddos who weren't eating their meals for entirely different reasons. My glass of wine remained on the table almost entirely untouched, a tribute to the days (past and future) when a satisfying meal would be followed by an afternoon of lounging on a couch with pants unbuttoned, another glass of wine in hand, dozing in between stolen bites of leftover mashed potatoes and blueberry pie.
On Friday after the parade, the childless cousins traipsed off to the mall while the rest of us lugged overly-tired, whiny, sticky children home for long-overdue naps.
Sometimes it's a little hard not to wistfully long for the freedom of days gone by. "No, I can't stay up and watch that movie with you because with the time-change, my toddler is waking up at 4:45 and not going back to sleep." If they put this on the front of the "parenthood club" brochure, I suspect membership would be pretty limited or at least a bit more reluctant.
Through it all this weekend, I kept having this phrase running through my mind: "lean into it."
Have you ever been on top of a mountain, with wind whipping around your body, pushing you away from that peak, but you lean into the wind, holding your body steady in order to enjoy the exhilarating view? (If you haven't, come to Montana and I will point you in the directions of the mountains. it will be good for your soul.) Lean into it. Hold steady. Enjoy the view.
Because, when I don't let my ungrateful heart get ahead of my slowly-sanctifiying-mommy-self, I love the view from up here. The delight in the children's eyes at the parade. The exhausted girl who snuggles in uncharacteristically close while she awaits her nap. The happy dull roar of a home filled with young lives who are exploring their world and building relationships.
This is a phase, a preciously short time that we don't need to be guilted into "enjoying every moment," but maybe we do need to be reminded that when we feel buffeted, the best way to survive is to lean into it. This is who you are right now. This is your life, it is a gift and it is a challenge; it is a blessing and it can certainly feel like a curse. You can get tossed around like a ship at sea, you can hunker into a little ball, or you can plant your feet, face the winds that aren't going away anyway, and do what you can to hold steady. Sometimes the wind on a mountaintop sucks the breath right out of your lungs, not unlike the tightening in my chest when both kids join a chorus of other screaming children or the little one cries for an hour straight on a road trip.
This is life as I currently know it. It is beautiful. It is breathtaking. It feels like I am being sucked completely dry. So I try to remind myself: lean into it. Hold steady. Enjoy the view.