These are simultaneously the greatest and the hardest days.
I sit on the front porch with Zoe, watching the sun filter through our neighbors' sprinklers and the shadows grow long. Our neighbors come home from work and Zoe waves and yells "HI NEIGHBORS!" before turning to me and asking "Can our neighbor come over to play with me?"
Two-year-old girls are truly delightful.
I smile and tell her the neighbors are going to stay at their house tonight and Zoe turns back to her task at hand: picking "berries" off our bushes and throwing them into the yard yelling "COME HERE BIRDIES!" because I told her the birds eat those berries (a fact that cannot be verified).
She is all heat-flushed and sweaty and wild-haired and bug-bitten and curious and easily amused and the perfect picture of summer innocence. She runs to the garage and comes back lugging two watering cans (one kid-sized, one roughly the same size as she), eager to help out as her daddy comes to turn our sprinklers on. I take a deep breath and settle into a place of contentment.
These end-of-the-day moments are necessary. Sometimes I sit alone, ignoring the mosquitoes and the heat because I just need a minute alone (and maybe also some Vitamin D; I don't get out much these days), sometimes I'm jiggling a fussy Eliza, sometimes Zoe joins me while Zach stays in with the baby...whatever company or solitude I'm allowed in those 20-30 minutes is perfect. Those minutes are the time to breathe deeply and remember these are the greatest days. To step out of the house, the mess, the lovely and harsh air conditioning, the "whatever" that made moments (or the entire day) challenging...that's the nice word for it, right? The "I don't want to complain" word. How are things? Oh they're...challenging. *Strained smile* But then...to step outside for a minute, to exhale and release the hardest moments or revel in the greatest moments and realize it's actually ok because we made it and tomorrow is a new day. Who doesn't love a good reset?
If it was a good day where naps were long and synced, where obedience won the fierce battle in the 2-year-old's heart, where nursing was easy and the baby was simply fat and full of dimpled smiles after eating well, where communication with Z was effortless and laced with inside jokes and quick laughter...then yes, YES! The day is ending and we get to do this again tomorrow. Thank God.
If it was a hard day where naps ended early and with the entire contents of the dresser blanketing a certain toddler's bedroom floor, where consequences for disobedience were dealt over and over, leaving everyone a little tense and frayed, where nursing was a struggle that ended with a screaming, frustrated baby and a mom on the verge of tears, where feelings are hurt because "seriously I JUST said that, were you not listening at all?"...then yes, YES! The day is ending and we get a new one tomorrow. Thank God. Take 5 to 45 extra minutes on the porch, as needed.
These days are the greatest because Zoe is absolutely precious. She loves her "baby Liza" and wants to be involved in every part of Eliza's day. She is full of questions ranging from "can Eliza talk to me?" (not yet, but just you wait) to "should we dance in the kitchen?" (always) to "will you play with me?" (as much as I can) to "can I pour my water on Ollie?" (only outside...or if she deserves it) and anything and everything in between. We are teaching her about sin and forgiveness and grace and she said to me "gotta watch out for sin" and followed that up with "Can I touch your sin, Mama?" (So yeah, send help. How do you teach a 2-year-old these things on an age-appropriate level?) She is full of laughter and smiles and songs and questions and it is the greatest.
These days are the hardest because Zoe is two and she is discovering her independence and pushing her boundaries. She's learning how to navigate her new place as "big sister" in the family instead of "only child". She's learning the hard and never-ending lessons about sin and consequences and love and forgiveness. She's learning that mom and dad are not around primarily for her entertainment, which is really distressing to her I think. We're all adjusting to this new life with 2 kids. Z and I sometimes look at each other at the end of the day and feel overwhelmed and inadequate, unsure if we're "doing this right", all of it...the parenting, the disciplining, the adjusting...
These days are the greatest because an 8-week-old baby is pure sweetness. Eliza is all soft skin and rolls and coy smiles and sweet coos. We are delighted by nearly everything she does and there's no shortage of kisses directed at her round belly and chubby cheeks. Watching Zoe love Eliza and Eliza respond to her big sister is one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed. I can't wait to see their relationship grow. Eliza is sleeping well for a 2-month-old, all things considered. She's healthy and (usually) happy and impossibly squishy and snuggly. These days pass so quickly and I am soaking them in, letting dishes and laundry (and sometimes showers, if we're being honest) wait while I hold her close and breathe in that newborn sweetness, working hard for smiles and sweet baby noises. It is the greatest.
These days are the hardest because newborns are so. hard. For every night of good sleep there is a night where the hours roll by and we are still awake, walking the halls or rocking in her nursery, wishing I had a Fitbit so I could figure out how many miles I was logging. But maybe I don't actually want to know. I'll just go ahead and slap the 26.2 sticker on the back of my minivan. There is stress and anxiety, wishing this little baby could just tell me what is wrong so I could fix it. Praying she would fall asleep. Feeling alone and frustrated and above all, guilty...for feeling those things, for struggling with those while at the same time bursting with so much love for this tiny little treasure I'm holding in my arms. How do you reconcile those polar emotions in those 3am moments in a dark, quiet house? Maybe just reminding yourself that they are emotions, and emotions cannot be trusted and should not be the boss of us. And maybe also with Oreos. There is guilt over attention that is split between two little girls. There are tears and short tempers. There is the constant nagging question "Is it this hard for everyone? Or am I just especially weak and sensitive and unable to handle this great upheaval, this massive tidal wave of both positive and negative emotion?" Part of me really wants to know the answer to that question. And part of me is terrified to know because what if...what if it really is so much easier and comes so much more naturally to everyone else? But if not...if this is normal, if this is actually this hard for everyone else, what a huge relief. How comforting and encouraging! We are in this together, moms of little tiny ones. We're going to be ok. Above all, there is the understanding and the reminder that this season is so short, even though sometimes it feels like it will never end. But it's still hard, in the meantime. And I still feel like a cranky zombie when my sleep is cut short.
The greatest days. The hardest days. I recently told a dear friend that I felt like I was perpetually playing catch-up in every area of my life and she responded with "it's more like drowning...in the best way possible! Drowning in stress and love and anxiety and happiness..." Yes. That is probably a good way to put it. I know it won't always feel like this, so I'm trying not to let it get the best of me. Instead I do my best to pause and soak in the great days, the great moments...and as for the hard days, the hard moments...those pass quickly and a little front porch time does wonders for a weary mama.
And also, Oreos.