We’re in a doctor’s office waiting area, surrounded by other parents and children. It’s been an exhausting morning getting out the door and to the appointment on time, but we’re here, and it’s a moment of rest sitting in the chair together before we’re called back to an exam room. I give her a drink of water. I talk to her, about anything; I make faces, and she imitates, wrinkles her nose. We sing “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” and she makes the motions. Then she leans in, wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes. Everything has faded, and there is just us, the two of us, in a tiny moment of perfection.
Lunch is over, the littlest is down for her nap, and now we’re ready for stories before his quiet time. He chooses two books, or maybe we negotiate and we each choose one from the overflowing shelves. We settle onto the couch under a blanket, and I read: about a snowy day, or about a woman who makes her mark with lupines or a father who takes his daughter owling in the night. He soaks in every word and studies every picture, as he always does. The house is silent except for this story. I pull him close and he snuggles his head against my chest. Someday soon, he’ll want to read these stories himself, and he won’t need me. Someday, he might not want to snuggle under the blanket and rest his head on me. Someday, but not today.
The laundry is piling up, as it always is, and stacks of folded clothes have to be put away. I carry a full basket up the stairs. I hear the racket from half-way up, and I walk to the room. He’s bouncing a ball as she tries to catch it, and they’re both racing around on all fours. He’s laughing hysterically, and she stops and reaches out to pat his leg. The shared affection is obvious. The moment of harmony is likely to be brief, but the love is there, and growing all the time. He leans in and gives her a kiss, and she laughs again.
A friend recently remarked that the parents she knows are all very articulate about the things that make parenthood hard but have trouble expressing why it’s so great. She’s right. There’s a lot out there these days about the things that are stressful and crazy and downright miserable about parenting (and there are plenty). I like that we can talk about and laugh at those things and find some solace in knowing we’re not alone in them. Those things are usually pretty tangible. It’s a lot harder to explain to someone without kids why it’s still all worth it. You end up sounding trite or vague or ridiculously sappy. Maybe it sounds like you’re bragging about your kids. It’s nearly impossible to convey the strength of the feelings that go bone-deep.
All I can do is share moments like these, when time stops, the world fades, and I think, “This. This is why I keep going.” These are the times that remind me that right now, right here, I’m living the halcyon days.