I sit down while smiling at the other ladies around the table, fumbling to put down my baby’s car seat, diaper bag, and favorite toy. I let out an audible sigh. I’m glad to see these lovely women, looking forward to a night of planning for an upcoming conference.
Eleanor is a wonderful baby, but at seven months old, she is not quite a sweet, sleeping infant anymore. She loves to move. And although she hasn’t figured out how to crawl just yet, she finds ways to get around a room.
As we order our meals, Eleanor shows everyone at the table her two new tricks, spitting and screaming loudly. After each outburst, she smiles exuberantly at me like she’s just done something spectacular. I instinctively tell her to “shhh” (ridiculous, I know), as I attempt to hear the conversation.
I collect my thoughts to add to the dialogue and feel something warm on my leg. Looking down, I see leftovers from Eleanor’s dinner — green beans — now spewed all over the clean jeans I threw on before heading out the door. I quickly grab my napkin to cover the mess, trying to keep my thoughts — and dignity — intact. As the meals come and we continue to plan while we eat, Eleanor does not want to sit in her car seat, and so she wiggles and squeals all through the meal, juggled on one of my arms while I try to eat with the other. As dinner comes to an end, Eleanor is getting more and more fidgety. Nothing will please her: not a bottle, her favorite toy, not even me holding her.
And just as I’m trying to think of what new thing I can pull out of my bag of tricks, I again feel (and smell) something warm. Oh no, not again! Please tell me she hasn’t blown through another outfit!
Excusing myself to the restroom, I wait in line for the stall with the changing table, carefully holding Eleanor at an angle so as not to soil my own clothes. Rifling through her bag, I find another outfit crammed in the bottom corner (thank you, God!). I clean her up, change her, then stop by the sink to wash my hands. As I look in the mirror at the tired woman looking back at me, I think: How did this become my life?
I return to the table as Eleanor is transitioning into a full-blown meltdown. Recognizing the signs, I begin to gather my things together. Dusting off my phone from the formula I’d spilled on it earlier, picking up the toys Eleanor had thrown on the floor, I tell the women: I’m so sorry to leave early, but I believe Eleanor has thoroughly spit on everyone at the table and it’s now time for me to go.
As they offer me words of encouragement and grace, I smile and turn to leave.
While walking to my car, I look down to see my sweet baby girl already asleep in her seat.
And as I am heading home, I realize that the tiredness I feel is not just from a long day with my kids. It has been a string of long days with very little breaks. In fact, I can’t remember the last day I had alone, with no little ones underfoot. And although I love summer and all the fun activities we’re doing, it’s enough to make me just a little weary at times.
Parenting, like many things in life, is a bit of an oxymoron. It’s thrilling and yet exhausting. Rewarding and yet tiring. Amazing and yet draining. And although I can say wholeheartedly that I am just so thankful for these little ones — who I truly consider to be one of the greatest gifts of my life — they are also the biggest reason that I just need a break. A moment alone.
As I tuck my children into bed that night, I’m reminded of a quote I’ve heard: The days are long but the years are short. This is probably never more true than in parenting. Wasn’t I just holding back the tears last week as my five-year-old boy was playing soccer? Feeling overcome by the memory of him as a baby, thinking, Wasn’t I just nursing him?
Time truly is going by way too fast. So for all my friends out there who find themselves needing a break — whether in parenting, in school, at work, or wherever else you find yourself — remember that even if the days are long now, the years pass quickly. Things will change.
And maybe, just maybe, some of these crazy moments will be some of my favorite memories…
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1