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In parenting, the season of giving lasts all year

December 08, 2011

Most mornings I drag myself out of bed to the sound of a 2-year-old yelling, “Eat! Eat! Eat, Momma, Eat!” from her crib. So, I get breakfast for her as fast as humanly possible to avoid the emotional breakdown that is sure to follow if food is not immediately available.

I reminisce about those long-lost days before parenthood. Lazy weekend days- wake up, roll around in bed for a bit until you’re really ready to get up. Lounge on the couch in front of the TV for a while. Have a casual breakfast that you don’t have to share with anyone. And, there is no crying of any kind involved. It sounds like paradise.

Feeling desperate for this elusive treasure, my husband and I took a trip to the beach for a long weekend. It felt necessary. It also felt scandalously indulgent, but we did it. We dropped our baby off at the grandparents’ house (thank goodness for grandparents!), and off we went. Three whole days: no cooking, no cleaning, no crying and absolutely no demands placed on our time or efforts.

It felt magical. We read books, lounged on the beach, ate fabulous meals. As a couple, we reconnected and were reminded what it is we love about each other. We even penciled in time for a couple’s massage (heavenly!). And yet, as the end of our second day drew to a close, I began to feel like something was missing.

I wanted to see her face light up as I pointed out seagulls on the beach. I wanted to laugh at the silly way she tilts her head and says sorry when she knows she’s done something she shouldn’t: “Auwy, Momma. Auwy.” I wanted to tickle her in the secret spots that only I know, the ones that makes her throw her head back and laugh a deep, uncontrollable belly laugh. I missed my baby.

I stopped and thought for a while about this irony.

Taking care of a child feels like so much work. It is always doing something, giving something for someone else. It is never on my schedule or fitting into my priorities. I am often looking for some way to make things easier or longing for a time when things will be easier in the future.

And yet, it seems like through the work and through the giving, you get the rewards. I wouldn’t know that sweet look that she gives when she says “auwy” unless I were there with her everyday, teaching her right from wrong. I wouldn’t know her ridiculous “pee-pee dance” unless I had cleaned up one-too-many accidents as I tried to teach her to go to the bathroom on the potty.  I wouldn’t know the laughter if I weren’t there for the tears, too.

I guess what I mean is, even when it seems like I’m doing all of the giving, I’m really receiving a lot, too. Being there for all of the day-to-day necessities means that all of the special moments are reserved for me as well.

So, even though my days are long and tiring, they are colored with the sweetness and laughter that only a child can bring.

I’ll try to remember that tomorrow morning when I’m snuggled comfortably in my bed and I hear the crescendo of a little voice saying, “Eat, Eat, Eat!”

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