This has been a rough few months for our family. My father-in-law has been struggling with some heart issues. It frustrated him, it frightened us, and it led to about three to five different hospitalizations since August. He has suffered the most and yet been in the best spirits; I’ve been akin to a sulky teenager, angry at the world because life isn’t easy; my husband’s been understandably worried; the kids have been . . . kids. Thank God.
Last night we got Dad home from his latest hospital stay, which we all hope is the last one for a long time. He’s doing great, and we all had dinner together. After dinner he got up to help us with the dishes–he’s always done that–but we told him that he should go home and rest. My husband took him home to settle him in and help manage his pills.
Boo and Critter had finished their homework, and without even asking when my husband and father-in-law left they started helping me clean up. Our dishwasher has been broken for about a month now, so we had to hand wash the dishes which, honestly, isn’t so bad. It’s kind of meditative.
Critter really wanted to wash the dishes, so I totally let her–it freed up time for me to clean the counters and do some laundry and just generally straighten up around the place. Boo chipped in, as well. All this without being asked. But before we started Boo said, “Do we want some music to work by?” so of course we said yes, and she blasted some of the newer pop songs like “Cheap Thrills” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” as we danced around the house together putting away groceries and picking socks up off the floor and Critter blew bubbles at us from sink soap.
And I had one of those moments. You know the ones? When you realize you are IN IT, when you are living the dream? So silly to feel that cleaning the kitchen with the kids is a dream of mine, but it was. It felt like something out of a movie I had wanted to star in my whole life. I had kids so I could have THIS, my mind said. So I could have this time, this silly, run-of-the-mill, cleaning the kitchen with my daughters time. This dancing and blowing bubbles time. This time of silly togetherness. The moments that make a happy life.
It’s so different from my time with them as babies, where I worried that Boo would cut herself with a knife if she tried to load the dishwasher (she did, by the way. We put a band-aid on it); or Critter would burn herself with hot water (instead she got burned with a glue gun at some point; she lived). I didn’t worry about them yesterday. I wasn’t afraid or hovering. We were just working together, cooperating, and having fun taking care of our home. Basic domesticity, and family. THE MOMENT. No yelling or screaming or nagging or anger or disappointment or frustration or resentment or aggravation. They knew I’d been having a rough time. They had been having a rough time. And maybe the rough time was over and we could just have that moment of peace. Utter, and complete joyful serenity.
And, like Brene Brown once said, as I was in that moment, living in it, thinking “This. This is family. This is the dream. This is the joy,” immediately my mind went to, “And it can’t last. This is that moment in the movie before something horrible happens.” And I felt that fist grip my heart. Ooh I hate that fist. I hate it. But it took hold of my heart to squeeze the joy right out of it, and tears blurred my vision and instead of singing I just got gaspy and Boo came right up to me and took my arm and said, “Mom. What?”
So I looked into those brown eyes and instead of hiding what I was thinking I told her. I said, “This moment. It’s perfect. This is why I wanted to have kids. For times like this. These simple, silly, working-together-in-the-kitchen times. But it feels like that part of the movie where everything is peaceful and great right before something horrible happens, and I’m so terrified all of a sudden.”
Boo’s response was, “Mom. Grandpa’s been in and out of the hospital for two months. This isn’t the part of the movie where something horrible happens. The past two months WERE the horrible. This, mom, this is the happy. We’ve earned the happy.”
We’ve. Earned. The. Happy.
And with those words, the joy all came flooding back, and the hand released my heart, and the tears just disappeared, and the singing resumed and the bubbles floated and some song about a chandelier came up next and I just let myself enjoy the happy without thinking about anything else. And I realized, THIS, TOO. This is the moment. This is the reason I persevered through every smelly diaper change; every 2 am feeding; every “abandon the plan because of a meltdown;” every failed potty training attempt; every postpartum anxiety attack when faced with taking the children to Wal-Mart; every deep breath to keep from screaming during their tantrums; every counting to ten to keep from losing my cool; every mind-numbing hour of watching Wa Wa Wubbsy; every disciplinary time-out-and-no-don’t-even-think-of-leaving-that-corner; every ridiculous version of “Skinnamarink;” every “read it again, please;” every “mom’s morality minute in the morning” on the way to school. To have THIS moment, RIGHT here, RIGHT now, with these girls, who would have been worth every sacrifice even if they didn’t have the ability to talk me off a ledge, but who get me down better and more effectively each and every day simply by being present in my life.
So yeah. That’s where we are right now. The storms have passed, and now we get to enjoy the rainbow. The glass isn’t half empty, it’s half full. The best isn’t over; it lies ahead. We’re not waiting for the next bad thing to happen; we’re celebrating the end of the bad things that we’ve overcome. We’ve earned the happy.
And yet still my mind whispers, “For now.”