Finding The Joy

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Like most people, I enjoy Saturday’s. Not because I get to sleep in (because I don’t); not because I get a little downtime (because I don’t); and not because I get to stay up late to watch TV (because I can’t make it past 10:30 p.m.).

I like Saturday’s because I get to take my 4-year-old to gymnastics, which allows me to have 45 minutes of undisturbed time to myself. The baby stays home with dad and gets some bonding time with him, and I get to watch my 4-year-old jump around till her heart’s content, while I get to scan social media on my phone and chat with other moms. It is magical. This week I talked to a mom – not sure what her name is because we didn’t get into those formalities. I see her every week. Her child is one of the few that the coach has to remind to “listen” – a lot.

I feel for this mom. She wears the stress of motherhood on her sleeve. She looks glassy-eyed, seems to be barely hanging on, and probably thrives on a pot of coffee a day. In addition to her full-throttle 4-year-old, she also has twin 7-month-olds, and she is a full-time nurse. This woman needs a medal or an assistant. Or heck even both. For real.

We chit-chat for several minutes about the similarities we have in common with having a high energy kid; the little sleep they need; how they are always on the go – nothing tires them out; and the defiance. She commented about how my daughter at least listens in class. I tell myself I am lucky for that and hope she will also do well in school when she starts Kindergarten. As a parent, you have to be grateful for the little things – it’s for the little things you only seem to get. Okay, no, I am not stealing a line from a song. Janet Jackson’s lyric ended in “give.” Entirely different but the title fits – “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” Answer: Everything if you’re a mom!

I enjoyed talking to this mom. She was honest, raw, and completely genuine. She didn’t sugarcoat ANYTHING. After learning she was a nurse, she went on to say how she loved going to work because “it is her vacation every week.” She has to get away from the crazy at her house, but also the fact that she really enjoys what she does. I ask her what time her kids are in bed and her response was classic, “we all go to bed at 8:00 p.m.” Again, I thank my lucky stars that I get at least an hour to myself in the evenings. Most nights anyway.

I realize why I connected with her. As she looks like she is barely keeping herself together, I think I probably look similar. There are so many days I feel like glass and if someone drops me – I will shatter into a million pieces. The kids don’t care if you need sleep, aren’t feeling well, or just want to sit on the couch. They whine, they cry, get into things they shouldn’t. There is no break.

I understood this mom. Yet, I know there are some moms that don’t understand me or her. I know there are moms that have an easy kid. A kid that just complies without much parental repeating. I know there are moms whose 4-year-old still takes a nap and sleeps 12 hours at night.  I know this mom and I are on the same page. Because we have children that are alike. We are in the throes of motherhood. She even says to me, “who says parenting was fun? It’s awful. The little joy you have is few and far between.”

If she had said this to the mom down the way, who appears all put together, talking about gardening, she wouldn’t understand the strain. The reason: her kid is mild-mannered. Sweet. Sugar and spice and everything nice. It’s the mom that is raising a strong-willed, stop at nothing, attacking life kind of kid that wears one thin. Thinner than Wheat Thin. That mom wouldn’t understand and I don’t expect her to.

As a mom to a strong-willed child:

You will be pushed to your limit and a little farther.

You will be tired. All. The. Time.

You will find pleasure in the little things like going to work, shopping for groceries, and having an hour of alone time to yourself. And at the same time you have these little pleasures by yourself, you will also feel guilty for being away from your child(ren).

There will be joy. Not all the time, because with the temper tantrums, the lashing out, the incessant demands, and whininess … it’s sometimes hard to find. But when they smile at you, when they make your heart skip a beat after an accomplishment – like climbing the rope at gymnastics…. you will feel the joy. It’s there. I swear. You just have to slow down to see it.

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