“Know what mommy?” My daughter announced, “I save all my good energy for school. That’s why all I have left is bad energy for home.”
She wasn’t kidding. The morning was filled with tough moments and it had me frazzled. I picked at a dried glob of oatmeal on my shirt, tucked the soother back into my toddler’s mouth, and stifled a sigh as I turned to zip up another coat. It was obvious what sort of day it was going to be around here.
“I love you, Beans.” I whispered, hoping it would erase some of the tough words and actions of the morning. She smiled and skipped off for her day’s adventures.
In that moment all the feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and anger began to fade away. I was only left with was an overwhelming love for this girl who calls me mom.
This is parenthood in a nutshell. A complex and oft changing mix of emotions, needs, desires, and tasks to be accomplished.
I can find myself weary. Wondering how to find energy to clean one more dirty face, pick up another pair of dirty socks, or act as referee to a sibling squabble – again. There are days when bedtime can’t come soon enough. Hours when I’m overwhelmed. Moments where I simply have to walk away from the issues to gain perspective. Quite simply, there are times we’re in the trenches, parenting these tiny people intent on doing life their own way.
Right next to those days are ones in which I can’t believe how amazing it is to experience life with my kids. Hours I’m excited to immerse myself in play. Moments filled with joy, love, and wonder.
The balance between these two wild extremes is the key to this parenting journey.
How to Find Joy in the Midst of Chaos
Take time to step into our kids shoes. Putting ourselves in our children’s small, scuffed toe shoes and taking a minute to view the world through their eyes helps us see a new perspective. From here we notice how they are developing, learning and growing. How life is wonderful, but also confusing and exhausting for them sometimes. When I take pause and put myself in their position, I find my frustrations recede and understanding and empathy come instead.
Realize nobody is perfect. We’re quick to correct our kids for their attitudes, raising their voices, and being unkind to one another. But do we check these traits in ourselves as often? Usually, the answer is no. When we extend the same grace to our kids that we give ourselves for a bad day or a poor choice, our patience is extended.
Be quick to say I’m sorry and I love you. It’s hard to admit, but we all fail. We make mistakes, choose poorly, and react before thinking. Being quick to say I’m sorry helps us parent with humility and lets our kids see mistakes are okay – everybody makes them.
I love you is a phrase no one tires of hearing. Yet some days we find it difficult to say, or we fail to recognize in the moment how much our kids need to hear it. I love you is always worth saying even in the most challenging of parenting moments – perhaps especially in these moments.
Recognize that days are long but years are short. I found myself watching the clock when my eldest was a baby wondering how the moments crept by so slowly. The days and nights stretched out; long, exhausting and often lonely. Now I look at him, an active, independent child and wonder where the time has gone.
If we learn to embrace parenthood in all its messy, emotion-filled glory, we are better equipped to live joyfully in each moment. This means working through the hard, holding tight to the good, and recognizing each moment is a gift we’ve been given.
Embrace laughter. Laughter is invaluable in the parenting journey. With 3 small children, all of whom are high energy, creative, and mischievous there is never a dull moment. A toilet full of shoes, a “masterpiece” on the wall, or a dozen cracked eggs to “help” bake all provide us with the opportunity to laugh or cry. Of course we correct and discipline where necessary, but we also laugh – long, deep, and often.
Sometimes survival looks like a combination of caffeine, adrenaline, and many desperate prayers. Recognizing the joy alongside of the chaos helps us achieve balance in this role we’re so grateful to have been given; nose-wiper, owie-fixer, cleaner-upper – parent.