I went to bed on Friday night not wanting to deal with my kids Saturday morning. I knew they would find their way into my bed during the wee hours of the morning, as they always do. They would relax and watch the Netflix that I’d Chromecast to the television, but only for about 24 minutes. After that, a light bulb would go off in their little brains and they’d realize it was morning. What do you do in the morning? Eat breakfast! I would probably groan “In a minute” every seven minutes until it had been an hour. Malik would drive me crazy by jumping in my bed, Mahari would catch his energy and follow suit. I’d eventually grow insanely annoyed, get up, and fry up some eggs. Not this Saturday, though. You know why? Because on Friday, I went to Kroger and purchased some pancakes-on-a-stick. So, on Saturday all I’d have to do was drag myself out of bed twice for two minutes each time-until it was time to wipe someone’s butt of course. Oh, the joys of motherhood.
Saturday morning arrived and that exact scenario happened. Twenty four minutes of calmness before the chaos broke out. I warmed up the pancakes-on-a-stick, sent them to their respective corners of the house, and tried to sneak into the living room for a few more minutes of morning quiet time. It only lasted a few minutes before Malik approached me, holding a nearly empty water bottle that was full when I’d given it to him. I looked at him holding the bottle for a few seconds and asked, “Where’d you spill it?” He said “on the floor.” Duh lil boy! Which one?!
I looked at the clock and it was 11:53 am. It wasn’t even noon yet, I’d already cleaned up two messes, and I couldn’t bare to hear the sounds of Barbie and Voltron another minute! We were all going stir crazy. We had to get out of the house and for the free; to the park we went!
I didn’t want to go to the park. It was 83 degrees outside and the thought of the kids possibly having to use a port-o-potty (because they always have to pee and I’m a public health major) plagued me. Not to mention, the pressure of making sure two small kids don’t get kidnapped can be stressful. I only have one set of eyes and the park was huge! I actually lost Malik for like three minutes this go round. Whew! However, Malik needed to get active. That kid is like sonic the hedgehog.
The kids played as kids do at the park and then I told them to come with me for a walk. We found our way into the woods following a trail. Mahari was running with such zeal, it made me slightly nervous. I yelled for her to slow down as she got closer to the edge. The look of panic on my face startled Malik, y’all know he’s an anxious little fella. After grabbing hold of Mahari, I distracted Malik by telling him the God that we pray to created all of the beautiful nature that we saw before us. The trail that we’d stumbled upon led to a shallow river. A few weeks earlier, I told them we were going to go on an adventure, so this was perfect!
I let the kids take off their shoes and explore in the water. We skipped rocks, watched the bugs swim (ick), and just enjoyed each other’s company. There was no fighting, no mess to clean up-although everyone would need a shower-, and everyone was smiling. Mahari had all the sticks her little hands could hold. Malik could run, jump, and throw whatever wherever. It was nice seeing him explore without fear, hashtag growth. However, when he accidentally hit me in the stomach with a rock, I knew it was time to go. We’d been there for a couple of hours, nap time was on the horizon, and Mahari was getting hangry; nobody wants those problems.
I try not to complain about being single mother, I really do. I was venting to my aunt one day and she said, “You have to find the joy in it. They’ll only be this little for so long and then they won’t even want to be bothered with you.” I thought to myself, “What kind of stupid advice is that? I need an extra set of hands, not joy! And good, they need to grow up!” In my mind, a little more independence wouldn’t hurt. On Saturday, I realized she was right.
As I watched them play, they didn’t have a care in the world. They weren’t worried about the bugs in the water or the dirt on their butts, they were enjoying God’s green earth. No televisions, no tablets. No one even asked for a snack, until we got in the car that is. I was able to enjoy myself as well. There’s something about watching your kids be kids with no restrictions, but it hit differently because I was able to have a little peace myself. They were so into the nature that they didn’t bother me one bit. For those few hours I was able to forget about the weight on my shoulders as I listened to the water flow. I was truly in awe of the kids literally using the world as their playground.
In the movie The Back-Up Plan, a dad-to-be asked Anthony Anderson what parenting was like. Anthony told him it was series of awful, awful, AWFUL events and then something incredible happens. And then there’s another series of awful events and something incredible happens again. He said he felt like he was drowning, like he wanted his life back, but then something so magical happens that makes it all worth it. Shortly after, his son walked up to him with poop in his hands. I couldn’t have described parenting better if I tried!
Motherhood can be crappy, tedious, and exhausting, especially when you’re in it alone. There are days when I wake up angry because I have to get three people ready and if I didn’t, I could get an extra hour of sleep. There are nights when I cry myself to sleep because I’m tired of talking to a three and a four year old all day and I’m so lonely I can’t think straight. Days when I throw all cares to the wind and spend my last on a babysitter because I just need to hear silence and not the sound of little feet running back and forth. However, like anything else in life, if I only focus on the negative, that’s all it will be.
When we went to the park on that beautiful Saturday, it wasn’t because I wanted to do some super cool activity with my kids. It was because I didn’t feel like being a mom that day and I didn’t want them to be sitting in that negative energy, listening to me constantly yell “stop doing that”, “go in the living room”, or “sit down”. Three and four year olds never sit down anyway, no matter how much you yell. In stumbling upon that river, we stumbled upon a new family experience together and I discovered the joy. We had never been to a river or walked on a nature trail. I watched Malik relish at the jumping spiders in the water, something that would’ve given him a heart attack a few months earlier. Mahari, she just was just being her beautiful, stick collecting self. They were in their zones and that made my heart happy.
The joy was that they didn’t feel the burden. The joy was that they didn’t care about the things that kept me up at night. It was their resilience and forgiveness of me when I’d had a bad day and wasn’t the nicest of mommies. It was their smiles, their innocence, their sense of wonder, and their unconditional love.
This life will pass us by, and before it does I want to make sure my children have positive, fun memories with me. I don’t want them to remember me as snappy, angry, and frustrated. Many days that means taking a deep breath when they’re being loud, running around, and actually joining them in their version of fun. It means hot wheel races with Malik. It means painting Mahari’s toes even when I know the polish will end up on anything other than her feet because sitting still isn’t a thing. It means running through the sprinkler with them. Sometimes we go in the backyard and race one another. I’ll be honest, that last one is just to drain Malik’s overflowing cup of energy, but however the job gets done!
The next time your kid is driving you crazy and you constantly find yourself praying for bedtime, I want you to grab your phone and scroll until you find some old pictures of your child. I don’t know about you, but that always puts me in my feels. The moments in those photos seem like they happened just yesterday, right? Time flies when you’re raising children. You know how you hear women say “aww, I miss when my baby was a baby”? Well, the reality is that you’ll be saying that before you know it. As a matter of fact, my son starts Kindergarten next year. Bless it! Appreciate this season and don’t take these days for granted, even with all of your hardships. Trust me when I say I know that it doesn’t always feel like the joy is there. It is! You just have to look for it, even on the hardest of days.