We had to wait a long time to have our babies. Our oldest is 10 and our youngest are not quite 2-and-a-half. Through all the failed IUI and IVF cycles, lost babies, a ruptured ectopic, and grief over pursuing the dream for the family we had planned, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a mama. Now we have four wonderful, beautiful kids, including twins. Being their mother is a daily answered prayer. They change me in too many ways to count, every day, and always for the better. They are my heart four times over and each one is such a gift. I am, every day, in a million little ways, desperately grateful for them. Their funny laughs and giggles, their sweet kisses, the cuddles, snuggles and pillow talks before bed. The sweet moments are all that mommy blogs and lullabies and nursery songs are made of, topped with some daydreams.
But here’s the reality: Parenting also sucks sometimes. There is more to it — much more to it — than a perfect pink nursery, tiny onesies and a closet of smocked dresses and babies that go right to sleep. I am learning this every day the hard way as my kids get older and older. If there was a word for “humbling” that meant more humbling than humbling, “parenting” would be it. Parenting is not just the heartbreak over deflating their innocence when you have to explain why some kids always get the hot lunch, the struggle over wanting them to grow up and at the same time wanting them to stay little, the exhaustion and the ugliness, the emotional wretchedness of watching your child, your baby, suffer or hurt, it is also teaching life lessons that are hard.
There are the things you don’t want to talk to your kids about (birds and bees — eek!), things you really don’t want to talk about and yet know you have to (stranger danger, assault, drugs and alcohol) and there are tough situations you cannot change for them (and shouldn’t) but always want to. It’s heartbreaking to watch your babies’ hearts break, and there are sad moments as you watch them grow up, like when a grandparent passes away, or something as simple as when they tell you they know Santa isn’t real. And this is the BIG stuff, it isn’t even the every.single.day.stuff. of: Do I pick this preschool or that preschool? Should I take away their pacifier now or wait until after the baby comes? Is this a time for tough love? When should I start potty training? Is letting them quit soccer at age 3 going to make them quitters for life? How many times are they going to wake up tonight? Will I ever sleep again? Do I really have three vomiting kids right now, or is this a nightmare I’m going to snap out of any minute? Parenting is hard, and sometimes it sucks.
But again and again and forever, I will choose my children. I choose soaking up the water on the bathroom floor after a rowdy splash fight. I choose to scrape off plates of mac and cheese and color sea creatures with my 5-year-old. I choose singing my baby girl to sleep while my arms ache from holding all 30 pounds of her. I choose chasing my other toddler around the house with his pajama bottoms and tickling the bottom of his smelly toddler feet when I take off his shoes to put him to bed. I choose the page with the construction trucks on it over and over and over. I choose listening quietly while my son stumbles over big words because he is determined to read his own good-night books. I choose patience as I tease out, sentence by sentence, what is upsetting my fourth grader or what happened during her day. I choose toting around juice boxes and matchbox cars and having a paci in my pocket, washing chalk off dirty fingers and cleaning up spilled bubbles. I choose all of it, even on the impossible days, even on the days parenting just sucks.
And if parenting sucks sometimes, that’s OK. Because being a mama is the love of a million little moments, and it is the best gift I’ve ever been given.