One of the biggest pieces of advice most people pass along to new parents is, "Enjoy it...it goes so fast!" That is absolutely true, and before you know it, your tiny baby is running circles around you and won't stop talking. And the next time I blink, so I'm told, they'll be heading off to college. It is shocking how quickly time goes by. I can barely believe that it's nearly the end of November and I'll be putting up Christmas decorations in a week for Carter's second Christmas. Two years ago I was pregnant with Carter, and now he's running around the house and saying a bunch of words. Seven years ago I was pregnant with Jacob, and now he's in first grade, playing his second year of competitive lacrosse, and reading actual books. And I remember so much of it like it was yesterday.
I have thousands of great pictures and happy memories from the past seven years (and more before that when it was just Craig and me), but hidden in those pictures are a lot of tough moments and beyond them is a lot of the humdrum, everyday stuff I don't pull out the camera for. I love looking back at those photo-friendly moments, though many times I know what was hiding in the background--the tantrums, the yelling, the multiple attempts at getting the perfect shot. What's been haunting me lately is that the in-between times are not quality time, and just surviving them is making time go way too quickly.
Everyday is the same thing, over and over. Wake up, get ready, get the kids ready, get out of the house, go to work, come back, get the kids, rush through dinner, survive until bedtime, veg out in front of the TV until adult bedtime. Lately I've been falling asleep early, so I'm clearly exhausted...or bored by my current to-do list. The kids are a constant battle--getting Jacob to do anything without disrespecting us, getting Carter to stay away from Jacob and stop throwing food at dinner--and it's getting tiring to do it every single day. Weekends are even tougher, because the kids are together pretty much all day and playing referee never stops. Today was even worse, because Jacob's lacrosse game fell during Carter's naptime, so I had a doubly cranky kid to deal with for most of the day.
I've said it repeatedly here, though, that my priorities have no choice but to be screwed up, and I'm overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done in a given day or week. I need to work, even though I'd like to be focusing on making my family's life better. I'm not sure that even if I didn't have to work that I'd be able to spend my whole day with my kids (see above), but I'd love to think I could spend that time doing things to better their lives (finding better things to cook, keeping a cleaner house, taking care of all the little things that never seem to get done), and putting myself in a better position to actually be fully present when I'm with them. Right now I'm constantly distracted. I spend most of the time post-dinner trying to check a couple things off of my to-do list before I get too tired to do anything. Inevitably every night there's something that needs to get done--paying bills, online shopping, looking up recipes, cutting coupons, looking through paperwork--it never ends. And inevitably, I forget things, or put them off...and suddenly it's been days, or a week, or worse, and the procrastination comes back to bite me.
My dishwasher is still broken, and oh, something is still leaking ever so slightly that will probably involve a plumber after all. I've been having severe troubles filling up a weekly dinner menu, and I've been intending to look up new recipes or dig into old ones for weeks. I've even had a heck of a time staying awake for a blog post here. I can't even fathom how I'm going to fit Christmas into all of this. I'm just tired.
The overriding issue I'm having is that I spend so much time getting through the tough stuff every day and holding out hope for the fun stuff, that time is just flying past and I feel like I'm just not enjoying it enough. I'm waiting for those moments when we have peaceful family time and fun memories that aren't tainted by something. I think, honestly, that I'm waiting for something to feel more like what I remember living as a kid. Only...I've realized lately that it is probably impossible. Perhaps this is a testament to my parents, or maybe I was just a naïve kid that floated through life, but things just seemed so much simpler. Yet as a parent I'm all too aware of the lengthy to-do lists and all of the elements impacting the things we do each day. Instead of just enjoying Christmas, for example, I'm thinking about all that has to be done and wondering how spoiled or disappointed the kids might be by the end of the day. Instead of just soaking in every moment of kid cuteness, I'm thinking about what else needs to get done or whether their cuteness is a little too cute for their own good. I just don't think the simplicity of a kid's mind is possible, and I think that is letting me down. But it was all I know so I have to try to relearn how this is supposed to go, this time from the perspective of a parent.
I wish I had some great plan to solve this problem, but I don't. I'm at a loss. I'd like to use some of my five-day weekend next week to catch up on some things and start preparing for the holidays, but part of that time off is going to be focused on Thanksgiving, and I know that decorating for Christmas is a huge undertaking that will take up a large portion of the end of the weekend. I have a couple vacation days I'd like to use to reduce my stress level over the next few weeks, but I know how that usually goes this time of year at work. I just want to try to enjoy my kids, but they are like oil and water right now so it's hard to just appreciate them without having to constantly dole out the discipline. I love them, but they are exhausting. And on top of everything else, I'm just not having fun right now. I know that's not what all of this is about, but I could use a little fun at the moment. It might make everything else just a little bit easier.