Parenting

Finding Joy Amidst the Chaos

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by Kristin

It’s 2:00 a.m. when I hear the pitter-patter of little feet on my bedroom floor. They are getting closer. I hear my son say, at a decibel that is far too loud for 2:00 a.m., “Mom….” I quickly wave my hand in an effort to shush him and get him out of my room as quickly as possible. I can already hear the baby stirring. Nothing good can come of this.

I throw the covers back. I’m sweaty from the night’s sleep, what little I’ve gotten, and as the cool air of my bedroom hits my skin I’m covered in goosebumps. I grumble a little under my breath. I’m tired. WHY is he up? I drag myself to the hallway where he stands waiting for me. Doesn’t he realize that lack of sleep and Mom do NOT get along? I grumble something about it being too early to be up and send him back to bed. He tries to protest, but I shut him down and he reluctantly heads back to his bed.

I breathe a sigh of relief. I can hear my pillow calling me just feet away. I slip back under the covers ready for sleep only to hear the crinkle of the pack-n-play mattress next to my bed. The baby, he’s still stirring. I roll over, my back to his bed, and convince myself that he’ll go back to sleep. He has to. I’m too tired to get up again. Nope. Baby is awake.

I drag myself out of bed, again, this time reaching for the baby. He feels like he weighs a thousand pounds. I was not cut out for this. I need my sleep. I carry him to the couch and settle in to nurse him back to sleep. Twenty minutes pass by and he’s still wide awake. Thirty, forty, fifty minutes, then an hour have gone by. I decide to lay him back down in bed. Surely he’s tired and will go back to sleep. Nope. He begins to fuss. I’m afraid he will wake my husband, or worse yet, my son. I take him back out of bed and attempt to nurse him to sleep yet again.

He kicks and flails, his little hands grabbing and patting my face. Doesn’t he know that it is now 3:30 a.m.? I’ve been up for an hour and a half. My patience has run thin. I lay him next to my husband with an exasperated sigh. The good man that he is, he smiles at the baby and says, “Let’s go out to the living room,” and then promptly takes him from the bedroom. I breathe a deep sigh of relief and allow my head to fall into the pillow and my eyes to close. Sleep.

I manage to sneak in a quick hour of sleep before my husband texts me to tell me to come get the baby. He’s finally sleeping. Once again, I drag myself out of bed, each step taking more effort than the one before it. I transfer the baby back to his bed in hopes of a few more hours of sleep. One measly little hour later, I hear the click of a doorknob. Boy Number One is back up again. This time, there is no convincing him to go back to bed. I guess it’s a 5:30 a.m. wake up call today.

I’m tired…..so tired. We go to the living room. I turn on the TV. Cartoons and breakfast. Maybe I can sleep a little on the couch. No, he wants to talk. Soon, it’s time to wake up the girls. We have a to-do list a mile long today. I realize that if I’m going to get everything done, I need to start now. You see, we have to bring lunch to a friend at 10:30 this morning. Homemade macaroni & cheese, her request.

I start the water for the noodles and prepare the pan for the cheese sauce. I can’t find the shredded cheese. It’s missing. I had just purchased it the day before, how could it disappear? We spend several minutes searching for the cheese only to find it in the sack, on a desk chair. Of course. It was left out overnight. I take a chance and dump it into the pan. The water is taking too long to boil. It’s not going to be done before I have to take Son Number One to preschool. I instruct the thirteen-year-old to watch it while I take him.

I return back home only five minutes later to drain the noodles and mix them with the sauce when I realize that I’ve forgotten to buy a disposable pan to bake it in. That’s okay, CVS is just a few blocks away. I’ll run there. Baby is back awake. I hand him off to the thirteen-year-old and run to the store, promising to be back quickly. They don’t have what I need. Figures.

It’s now 9:30 a.m. I still have to run to the mall and pick up a gift for my friend that I had dropped off for engraving the night before. I don’t have time to run to another store for a pan. It’s okay. I’ll just use my regular glass dish. I open the junk drawer and dig for a Sharpie. It’s not there. Why would anything be easy today? I send the six-year-old on a hunt for the marker. She finds it, I’m not sure where, but I quickly write my name on the pan and put it in the oven. My macaroni and cheese takes 30-40 minutes to bake. I’m running out of time quickly.

I spend the next little bit getting the six-year-old ready for the day and putting the baby back to sleep again. The thirteen-year-old agrees to stay with the baby while the six-year-old and I run to the mall and to drop off lunch to my friend. Six-year-old and I were gone only thirty minutes before the oldest calls to say that the baby is awake again. What is with these kids? Sleep: It’s good for you! I beg her to handle him for a bit. I’m running late. It’s 10:30 when we leave the mall. I have a ten-minute drive to get to my friend’s house.

We drop off lunch and chat for a little bit before leaving to pick up the four-year-old from preschool at noon. We arrive back home to find an exasperated thirteen-year-old. She isn’t exactly a kid or baby person. She manages okay, but doesn’t enjoy it. I take him from her. I’m exhausted. All I want is a nap. Time to nurse the baby. He falls asleep. I lay him down and start lunch for the rest of the minions. Can you believe that? They expect me to feed them!

It’s now 1:30 p.m. I have 1.5 hours before the oldest has to be at school for show choir. I gather the troops for a little school. It’s always harder with the four-year-old home. The six-year-old is about as distractible as they come and spends the next hour bouncing back and forth between school and conversation with her brother. I’m tired of redirecting. I’m tired of attempting to keep her on task. I’m tired of arguing with the thirteen-year-old about how much she has to do. I’m. Just. Tired.

The baby sleeps most of the afternoon and I have to wake him to take the oldest to show choir practice. I want to cry. Exhaustion has consumed me and I no longer have control over my emotions. Frustration pours from me in everything I say and do. I need sleep. I’m quite certain that I cannot continue the day, yet somewhere I find the strength to keep going. I suppose because I have no choice.

Dinner time comes and goes and it’s time for dance classes. I drag myself to the studio, now with a raging headache. Why do I always get headaches when I’m tired? The baby is tired too. He fusses. I put him down to play on the floor. He doesn’t want that and begins to shriek. I place him on my hip. He squirms and fusses, arching his back. My arms are on fire from fighting him. Is it time to go home yet? The four-year-old is pulling on my arm to get my attention. I restrain myself from letting every ounce of frustration from the day break free on him. He’s bored. He wants to go home. Me too, buddy, me too.

Once home again, the day winds down with baths and bed. Jammies for the kids, sweatpants for myself. I nurse the baby to sleep again, hoping it’s for the night this time. The house is quiet and I finally allow myself to relax. Sleep. It’s hitting me hard and fast.

Chaos. It’s everywhere. It is the summation of my life with four children and a husband who works long hours and attends college full time. I’ve never handled it well. When my life feels like it’s spinning out of control or I have too much on my plate, I get overwhelmed.

But recently, I had a large dose of perspective. The friend I brought lunch to? She lost her son, a twin, just a little over a month ago. He simply did not wake up in the morning. We’ve all said, thought, and been told to live life to the fullest, because you just never know what tomorrow holds, but never has it hit so close to home for me. My dear friend will never hold her baby on Earth again. He was just seventeen months old with beautiful blonde curls and the sweetest smile. I know she would give anything for the chaos that is my life if it meant having her baby back. She would stay up for hours each night, if only she could rock him one more time.

I now look at my children, even through exhaustion, with joy. I choose to be thankful that God entrusted me with their care on this Earth. Every moment I have to spend with them is a gift. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of every day life, to get frustrated with the messes and lack of sleep, but I now choose to look at those moments as blessings, not curses.

Hold your children close and embrace each moment with love. Everyone is tired or crabby? Math can wait another day. Snuggle on the couch under a blanket and read a book or call it a movie day. You’ll never regret the love you share with your children, but you may regret NOT sharing those moments with them. The chaos that comes with having a family is a blessing…..embrace it each and every day.

vinnie-j

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