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We Are Both Behind and Ahead

You make parenting look so easy.

A new friend tells me this as she nurses her tiny infant on my back deck. There is a tiredness in her eyes that I recognize even though it isn’t obvious. I look to the grass where my two-year-old son climbs up and down the small slide independently. It is a Tuesday morning which means my other two kids are at school (and preschool). It is quiet. It is calm. The one child home with me tends to play pretty well independently and even though he requires some redirection this morning, he redirects. There are no tantrums or arguments or raised voices. I see what she sees. It does look easy.

She doesn’t see or hear the times I am here with all three of my kids—when the volume levels raise and all our patience wears thin—but I can’t deny the fact that this phase of parenting is easier in many ways. I am no longer physically bound to a baby. We can solve many issues with words and conversations. And when the kids play outside, sometimes I stay inside and watch from a window while finishing another task. Our parenting landscape has shifted (a little bit).

You’re comparing your life to a life five years ahead, I tell my friend. When we had three kids under three, I often ended the day facedown on the carpet, crying. 

I tell her about the months our daughter refused to go to sleep each night. About how, every evening, she would scream herself hoarse because she didn’t want to stay in her bed.  I remember those nights with clarity, right down to the way the carpet was rough on my cheek when I finally collapsed into it. My husband, Drew, found me there often when he came to check on me —resigned to the hard floor and completely depleted just hours before another day was set to begin. 

I read in a book recently that “remembrance kindles hope,” and I feel the truth of this in two ways as I tell this new friend stories from my not-so-distant past. First, remembering refreshes my confidence in my own future. Not because all our problems have magically resolved (bedtime still takes it out of me some nights), but because I know the same grace that met us back then will continue to meet us in whatever is yet to come. 

But also, I see the effects of my remembrance on my friend’s face. It lifts slightly, as if she is allowing herself to picture a future when it doesn’t all feel so heavy and exhausting. Remembrance kindles hope. And hope is a light that warms you. When we part ways, I think we both feel a little lighter—a little warmer—all because we took the time to share a few stories between us.

Today I was the person who remembered. I am also always looking for women who have gone before me as well—moms who have lived and endured these ages or kids with similar personality quirks. We can be both people. We should be both people because we are behind and also ahead on any given day. You are always further along than someone, a friend of mine once wisely said. To which I would add, someone is always further along than you.

I think about this the whole rest of the day and each time I pass the large window that faces my backyard. There are more stories to tell. Will I tell them? To whom will I tell them to? And, most importantly, will my remembrance set hope alight?

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