Every night at the dinner table recently, Eli asks if he can say ‘Thank you to Jesus’. He begins solemnly, with his deep brown eyes hesitantly holding your gaze as he repeats the same mantra each time: “Thank you Jesus, we hope we don’t die, and our kids don’t die. Amen”.
Hudson’s version is a little more simple in concept, but uplifting: “Thank you Jesus for everybody,… for Daddy… for Mummy… for Daddy… for Ivy and Eli… EVERYBODY! Finished! Hooray!”
We’ve been looking through old footage of the kids this week and it has spun me out completely as to how much they have grown in the last year. Just over a year ago, Hudson was taking his faltering first steps with the yellow push-a-long bus as his safety net, and Eli still had his pudgy cheeked smile. Hudson barely had any words to speak of, and Eli was on the cusp of the threenager tantrum stage.
The chaotic pace of these early years lends itself to the perspective that if you can just ‘get through’ this phase, there will be some kind of reward later on, when the kids are less demanding, more independent and can sleep for predictable intervals. Dave and I have been guilty of this mode of thinking many a time.
And yet, when those past moments reappear on the screen, divorced from the exhaustion, frustration or sapped emotional state that may have accompanied the reality, you can understand how well-meaning older ladies look with wistfulness at your bundles of energy and recall only the positive moments of motherhood.
This week I’ve attempted to apply this wistful nostalgia to the present day, with surprisingly positive results. Paying attention to the funny mannerisms that are only here momentarily, the mispronounced words said so earnestly and the graduation to 4 year old booster car seats with ‘adult’ seatbelts. The chubby legs finding their bouncing rhythm in the jolly jumper, the ‘chest-heaving and head thrown back’ silent laughs and the random (‘what’s inside of penises?’) curious questions.
It would be misleading to imply, however, that this mindset has magically erased all the harder moments. There were still floor tantrums because Mummy cruelly stamped someone’s reward chart when they wanted to do it themselves, the epic piercing screams and enraged chair tossing in the midst of Tribe Kids this morning, not to mention the complete surprise on faces ordered to Time Out despite being asked to stop lovingly squashing Ivy a fair few number of times.
This phase of life is crazy, unpredictable, draining and exhausting. But then a moment comes along that reminds you how significant it all is. Or the nightly plea from innocent lips that reminds you of the fragility of life and the extraordinary gift that each day becomes.