Living inside and outside the photo

Today I want to talk about time…the excess and lack of it depending on the situation. There is something universal in the problem of how one day seamlessly slips into another. But on the other hand there are some activities that you feel you’ve been at for hours and when you look at your watch you think the battery must have died. Flying in an airplane for 20 hours with small children easily falls into that category.
I was recently looking at some pictures on Josh’s screen saver that randomly selects out of the zillions of files he has on there. The ones most striking were of my daughter who is now six. There were ones of her in her full out baby fat stage. The blonde, curly hair and huge gut made me long for that stage again. But then I remembered that Moses was a baby at that time and I was barely coherent from lack of sleep. All I longed for out of life was a good night’s sleep. We had no family, no friends, and we had just moved to a foreign country. And that phase ran right into the third kid where we just hit repeat on all the struggles of the past couple years. I love looking at those pictures though, because they remind me how wonderful my children were when I could hardly realize it. They remind me why I went through all those pregnancy sicknesses, breastfeeding nightmares, and food wars with each one.
I know that this phenomenon will only continue through their different stages of life. We get so caught up in being in the stages that we underestimate the true value of what we have. I remember talking to my husband’s parents about my struggles, because they had 5 children. I kept pressing them for some jewels of wisdom on how they survived it all. How did they just keep having more and more kids? His dad always told me, “It’s just a season.” And older people I think all love this phrase because I’ve heard it from just about everyone who has grown kids: “Enjoy it because it goes by so quickly.” I want to believe them, but at the same time I want to smack them because it helps me exactly zilch with where I am.
Now that my youngest is 2 1/2 I am obviously not through the childhood years, but I am sleeping through the night regularly. And that is huge! It takes the craziness out of my eyes and the distance out of Josh’s. One small thing doesn’t make me totally overwhelmed or make him turn into the Hulk. Although it was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, it was also a little scary to see how my sweet, gentle husband suddenly had a crazy side.
So to pull these rambling thoughts together, I am trying to make sense of this experience of time. I am not going to lie and say I want to go back to those baby years. But am I thankful that I have three fantastic kids to love and go through life with? Of course. And so I’m wondering if this understanding can be applied to other parts and seasons of my life. Just knowing the seasons will end doesn’t help me while I’m in them, but maybe forcing myself to take a photographic look from the outside will.
When I start the laundry in the morning and even before I’m finished washing, drying and folding it all there is another pile of dirty clothes already formed, I get this mental picture of the hamster on the wheel. Round and round. And many days feel much like the ones before. And yet, I have the hard evidence in these photos. And as I told my dad last night on the phone I have the wrinkles and the Alberding triceps fat gene kicking in to remind me. It’s happening. I can keep encouraging myself that I still feel really young and therefore I must still be young, but who am I kidding? This lie will perpetuate the dangerous trend I’ve been slipping in and out of.
We have one chance. We have one childhood. And in much the same way, we can say that about every season. Each one has its own struggles. No matter who we are or where we are, we have some things that are really easy for us and some that are a real struggle. And instead of wishing them away or waiting the season out, I’m wanting to engage in the struggle. I think it’s worth the laundry and dishes to get to the parts where I get to read a bedtime story to my daughter or have a tickle fight with my 2 year old. It sometimes doesn’t feel worth it to endure the power struggle during my daughter’s homeschool lesson to hear her read for the first time. But when I see the proud look on her face, I know it is. I know I made the right decision to fight (with myself, not her).
Some mornings I don’t feel motivated or strong enough to fight with myself. I am a very strong and determined person. That can be a good thing, except when I have the determination to be a butthead that day. But I don’t want to look back on pictures from this year and remember the hardships I experienced from living in a Muslim country or the hardships of having a 2, 4 and 6 year old, or the hardships of having a husband who everyone needs something from. I want to remember all the other stuff. All the beautiful stuff, and the funny stuff, and even all the stuff that made me want to scream in the moment but later that night made me laugh. I want to look at my new laugh line and think, “Well, at least I’ve been laughing this year.”


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