I just had a moment. Until I turn 40, I will not refer to such as a senior's moment. No, this was merely a parenting moment. A realization. As in one of those moments when you as a parent get to experience one extreme and then immediately go on to the next. Culminating in a meshing together of sentiment and reality. A moment. For me, the moment went down like this.
We are all cuddled up together on the couch watching family home videos. I am on the couch with Husband trying to get him to warm my freezing toes. The three girls are snuggled up in chairs beside us. Son is no where to be seen.
It is all so precious.
In the particular video segment we are viewing, Son was four, making the other two Munchkins 2.5 and almost 1. Youngest was not yet born. She is not impressed.
At this point in the night, I am tired. I know this stuff is cute,...but really. All I want to do is put these kiddos to bed so I can inch the game piece that much closer to the finish line. But as we watch, I start to feel something. It is a mixture of gratitude mingled with sentimentality. And maybe also a tinge of sadness. Not remorse or regret -- just loss. Our babies -- they are all 'growed up'. They are so big now. I can hardly hold them anymore on my lap, let alone rock them to sleep as I did for years. And it makes me feel heavy inside.
Because I miss them. I miss the babies. Our babies. I so miss those early years.
The emotions rising, I suggest we turn the television off for the night. One of our daughters stomps out of the living room and sulks her way up the stairs. I am practically glowing from the after-effects of the video, so I kind of let her off easy.
"If you guys can show me you can do this without fussing, we might have something special again tomorrow," I say. I am really hoping to get another 10 minutes out of this afterglow, keeping this warm and fuzzy feeling alive. As I follow them up the stairs, I am still holding onto the embers of the fire that was lit. I am practically radiating warmth and generosity. Maybe this might even last forever.
Husband suddenly remembers that some 'people' did not clean up their toys. This is not helping the cause, Big Guy.
More stomping ensues.
And don't we all know it -- that all good things must come to an end. But darn it all if I am not quite ready yet to pass the baton.
So I head down the hall to cuddle with the youngest in her bed -- me barely hanging onto the edge of the mattress when she suddenly decides that she needs a drink. Sending me reeling out of the bed only to whack my foot hard on her dresser. Nevertheless. I am still running on a few fumes of sentimentality left over from that blessed home video.
Until this happens.
"Mom!" Shriek. Whack. Smack. "MOM!!" (wailing, sobbing, crying...)
And all of a sudden, that moment I was describing? Well it was over. All she wrote. Forcing us to abruptly transition into another moment wherein one sister body-checks another on her way to get a drink -- a sister who then hits that particular sister in the shoulder because that's the way it works. And then, adding insult to injury, the first sister adds this charming little dig:
"And would you stop talking baby talk -- it is soooo annoying."
Taking me from sentimental afterglow into full-on, freakish "get thyself to bed" mode.
End scene. (Cut.) Moral of the story.
Here's my aha moment. We need all kinds of moments to keep us going. So, I am giving myself the following advice (because otherwise I'd cry):
Self, if you are unable to pick up the pieces of your fragile emotions every time you watched home videos, crying yourself to sleep over the loss of your four children's sweet innocence, what kind of existence would that be? And furthermore. If you are unable to calm yourself down in the heat of the moment when teeth-brushing time becomes a slap-fest- reminding yourself that a few minutes ago, you thought no sweeter children had ever graced the planet, what kind of life would that be either?
Self? (Are you listening?)
As I kiss them all goodnight, I remind myself that we parents need many parts to make the whole -- the good and the bad. Sometimes -- only rarely, but still -- we need the ugly. We need the fun and the frustrating. The sad and the happy. The sentimental and the reality. Every piece of our day is a part of the jigsaw puzzle.
And it all fits together.