“Life is what’s happening when you’re making other plans.”
The way we picture our morning going:
We’ll wake up early, feeling rested. In a dark, quiet house, we’ll savor a few peaceful moments alone with God. Once our happy cherubs awake, we’ll make a healthy organic all-whole-food breakfast. The children will eat every bite, smiling and saying, “Thank you, oh wonderful Mommy, for this delicious AND nutritious meal that looks and tastes even better than the Pinterest pin.” Then the kids will dress in adorable, spotless outfits (that coordinate but do not match) without one word of complaint; they’ll happily buckle themselves into their car seats, and we’ll all head to the park where we’ll laugh and romp and hold hands and take some Instagram-worthy pictures of familial bliss. We’ll come home, eat another healthy organic all-whole-food lunch, and everyone will nap at the same time, so Mommy can also get some rest.
The way our morning actually goes:
After a sleepless night when someone wets the bed and someone else has a nightmare and the baby cries periodically FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, we “wake up.” (But does it count as waking up if you never actually slept?) Before we stumble out of bed, we attempt a prayer, something along the lines of, “Herlubalub,” which we hope God is able to translate as “Help.”
We inhale two cups of coffee just to be able to remember the kids’ names. We rally, summoning courage and motivation we didn’t know we had, and make oatmeal with fruit. No one eats it, including our husband. They cry, moan, and wail, begging for sugar-coated cereal. We offer the oatmeal to the dog; he snubs it, too; we try not to cry. We wrestle our children into clothes—when they see our choices, again they cry, moan and wail, and beg to put on their stained and holey favorites. We give in.
Just when we have finished wrestling all the hungry children into their car seats, someone screams that they have to go to the bathroom NOW. Frantically, we unbuckle the ticking-time-bomb child and race to the bathroom, but it’s too late. We cordon off the disaster zone and run back out to the car to unbuckle the other children, hoping the neighbors haven’t reported us for leaving kids in a car in the driveway for sixty seconds. Then we spend half an hour cleaning up the mess, biting our tongue so we don’t say something that gets us kicked out of heaven.
At last we get everyone back into the car, and they cry, moan and wail with hunger. Feeling like the World’s Worst Parent, we hand them snacks full of high fructose corn syrup, just to keep them quiet. High on sugar, they sing silly songs at the top of their lungs on the way to the park, and we laugh. It’s raining when we get there, so we sit in the car for half an hour, singing and playing “I Spy” and car-seat-dancing, giggling till we all get the hiccups.
As soon as the sun shows up and we get out of the car, someone else has to use the bathroom, and the baby has a diaper that smells like death. We sprint to the park bathroom—it hasn’t been cleaned since 1973—then hold a squirming child two feet above the toilet while she tinkles, change the baby’s diaper on a makeshift changing table made of paper towels spread out across the bathroom floor, resist the urge to bathe our children in bleach, and head for the swings.
The swings are full. More crying, moaning and wailing. We head for the slides and enjoy ten gloriously happy minutes. We post one picture to Instagram of a smiling child with the hashtag #mysweetangel, even though our “sweet angel” was only smiling because he was about to throw mulch in his sister’s face. Mulch flies. The crying, moaning and wailing resumes at fever pitch. We give up and drive home.
On the way home, we sing, clap and shout, trying to keep the baby awake, knowing that if she sleeps for even one minute in the car, it will ruin her nap.
The baby falls asleep.
There will be no nap for Mommy, unless . . .
We head for the McDonald’s drive-through. The baby snoozes, looking like a cherub with her sun-flushed cheeks, her head tipped sideways in the car seat; the kids watch a movie in the car, happily munching on Happy Meals while we pull into a parking space and doze with our head on the steering wheel.
Here’s to enjoying the life we do have—junk food, sleepless nights, steering-wheel naps and all. There is no “perfect day” with children. It will never go according to plan. It’s messy, unpredictable, chaotic, loud, and inconvenient . . . and somehow, it’s the best kind of wonderful. As Psalm 118:24 (sort of) puts it, “This is the day—the dirty, disorganized, never-a-dull-moment, teetering-on-the-edge-of-disaster-but-somehow-still-delightful, perfectly imperfect day—that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”