We took an impromptu trip to see my east Texas grandparents this morning. I woke up sick and crabby and wanted to sleep for another 3 hours.
As always, I had one kid in my bed. Apparently, Olive had slithered in sometime in the middle of the night and had made her place with her legs on top of my throat. Owen woke us up early. He let me know he was hungry by screaming like a banshee in labor.
I drug myself into my closet and sniffed the armpits of the shirt I wore yesterday to make sure it was wearable. Olive, per usual, was sucking her thumb in the middle of the floor alternating between trying to go back to sleep and begging to watch Phineas and Ferb on the iPad.
In the midst of the frenzied attempt to leave, Ellia was calmly gathering all of her belongings. She pulled out her suitcase. She packed an extra set of clothes. She packed the books and dolls she wanted to take with her. She packed rain boots in the off chance it was muddy in Papa and Granny’s yard. She put on an Easter dress and did her hair and wore her church shoes and packed a pair of play shoes in case Papa and Granny’s yard wasn’t muddy.
She brought a full suitcase for an 8-hour trip.
We packed Owen’s 70+ items, all deemed “baby necessities” while Owen sat on the rug in the living room and watched.
Owen doesn’t crawl, but he’s mobile. He self-transports with a highly developed roll. He rolls everywhere—across rooms and halls and public areas. And he moves at an alarmingly fast rate. When he really focuses, he can go 20 feet in 20 seconds.
I assume he’s training for the rolling event in the Olympics. I don’t have the heart to tell him that professional rolling may not be a real thing. And if it is, he’s probably going to lose to a Russian.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Owen kept rolling toward the garage where we were loading the car with plastic Target bags that we fondly call “luggage.”
Olive climbed into the car wearing a ballet outfit with her panties sticking out of the leotard like little wings.
And, after packing up every drawer in her room, Ellia finally got in the car.
The trip felt 9 hours longer than it was. Owen forgot he was supposed to sleep and cried most of the way. In addition to yelling he threw his pacifier every time we put it near him. He has developed the ability to throw the pacifier into the no-man’s land between the carseat and the door. I spent my car ride reaching toward the back like a crazy person, slapping the back seats in an effort to find the pacifier. And, of course, after each failed slapping attempt, I’d unbuckle, climb into the back seat and search from a standing position over Owen’s car seat.
I’ve learned little baby snacks are a good pacifier substitute, so I always keep a stash of puffs with me. For those of you who don’t know, a puff is nothing more than an easily-dissolved cross between a Cheeto and a cheerio. However, it costs twice as much as actual Cheetos and Cheerios and tastes like Styrofoam.
I take advantage of the fact that Owen can be placated by food. I want to make sure he learns that when you want to cry, you should eat. This way, he can eventually tell his therapist where his emotional eating began.
The girls listened to a Bible verse CD and fought the whole time about which songs to skip and which ones were keepers. After a few moderate to severe breakdowns, I threw the iPad to the back seat and told the girls to watch Dora. Now, Ellia and Olive can eventually tell their respective therapists that I taught them to escape conflict through mind-numbing entertainment.
In the midst of wanting to punch out a window, I looked in the rearview mirror and looked at my three kids. And then, I really saw them—these three amazing lives. I realized each moment and each personality quirk and each squirm or yell or fit was a part of my kids’ development. And we as parents get to be present to this process. We get to watch the internal struggles and the interpersonal battles our kids face. And we deal with our issues right alongside our children.
Maybe this is what it is to be present to being family—not creating perfect memories but learning to partner with each other as we all grow into who we were made to be. Maybe being family means walking through the crabby, whiney parts in all of us and doing it with love and patience.
And even if being a part of our kids’ development means getting night-kicked by a child in my bed or cleaning up mess after mess, I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to be present. I want to get over myself long enough to look at the lives right in front of me. And maybe I’ll even learn to laugh at the chaos.