I peek on them before I crawl into bed, every single night. The 2-year-old and the 4-year-old share a room, pink and cozy and theirs. I make my way to the older sister’s bed first, gingerly stepping over laundry still to be put away and dress up shoes strewn across the floor because I just couldn’t. Her bangs flow over her eyes and I brush them away, lean down and hear her breath rise and fall. Then I go to the little sister and I sit down beside, kneeling, my hand upon her back. We battled today. She tried to claim her power and I tried to assert mine. And here she lies, still and peaceful and calm and spent.
Gingerly, I lean over and kiss her forehead, rest my hand on the small of her back, feeling it rise and fall. I stay here longer than I intended, watching her, feeling a truce fall between us, the dark and the night and the still building a bridge that could not have existed five hours earlier. Nothing went right for her today, nothing was acceptable, nothing felt good or tasted good or sounded good and she let me know. And now I feel a peace toward her that could not have existed five hours earlier as I felt my heartbeat rise, my anger rise, my voice rise as I told her how very done I was.
And now I just want to gather her up into my arms and rock this baby of mine who doesn’t seem so challenging, so demanding, so difficult anymore.
I crawl into bed, completely spent.
I crawl into bed, knowing that even these nighttime hours are theirs to claim.
I crawl into bed, wondering how I will rise in the morning and do this all again tomorrow.
But that’s exactly what we do, don’t we?
Despite the exhaustion, despite the anger, despite the meltdowns and the outfit changes and the spilt milk and the power struggles, we rise and we do it all again.
And there are the days where it is just not clicking. We’re exhausted and they’re exhausted and we snap and feel guilty and the laundry piles up and the yoga pants are on our body for the fourth day in a row and the coffee sits on the counter cold from the morning rush still.
I look at those moments- the ones that seem hard, the ones where I am just done- and sometimes they are actually hard. But sometimes, I see that they are hard because I lack the kindness, the grace, the patience, the creativity, the humor to carry us all past and beyond and through the hard.
Sometimes I am done because I am too busy trying to do things for them or for myself or for others instead of doing things with them.
See, sometimes, I let myself believe that efficiency is more important than presence.
But that’s what motherhood is all about, right?
It’s about being in the moment right here right now, not the one there, then.
It’s about putting on our boots to go outside with them when we would rather stay warm inside under a blanket.
It’s about making the effort to get to their recital.
It’s about noticing who they are, what they’re passionate about, how they are learning to draw circles and stick figures and stand on one leg and throw the ball and read aloud.
It’s about taking a breath when we’d rather yell, saying a kind word rather than a sharp one.
It’s about reminding and training and reading and playing and correcting and deep breathing and cuddling and coloring and cooking and cleaning and working and doing it all again the next day.
And all of these moments add up.
All of these moments build the scaffolding upon which they stand as we raise them up loved and strong and brave and known.
That is why we are so spent as we raise them- we give them our everything as we build the architecture of their lives.
And every inch of it matters.
Even when we’re spent. Even when a toddler pushes us past every limit we have. Even when we question our parenting strategies or wonder if we’re raising them right or don’t feel like we have enough for tomorrow.
It matters and it is worth it because through it all we tell them
I will rise for you
And I will raise you up loved and strong and brave and help you see new heights.
And I’ll do it all again tomorrow.