My boss sold my couch yesterday. And when I say my couch, I mean the couch that has sat in my office for last 6 years, that I’ve probably sat on 6 or 7 hundred times. We’re moving to a new office space, and I guess that means saying goodbye to old faithful.
Yesterday some movers came by to haul said couch away. As they lifted it, one of them nearly tripped. A small flash of blue rolled across the floor and then stopped in a dust covered corner of the room. We all leaned over to see what it was. A matchbox car. My son’s old matchbox car.
I’ve only brought my son to work with me once, when I first started this job. My boss asked me if I could come in on a Saturday to “finish a quick project,” new and anxious to please, I said yes. Never mind the husband who was out of town. Never mind the two year old who was in to everything. Never mind the 5 year old who couldn’t sit still.
Of course the project didn’t end up being quick. I had difficulties getting the program to run. What should have taken an hour, was obviously going to take much longer. The kids began running around the office. Just like home, the toys meant to entertain them were quickly strewn from one end of the hall to the other. My two year old started jumping on the couch. My 5 year old began frantically ramming his sister’s empty stroller into the walls and calling himself a nascar driver. I responded with yelling. A lot.
After what felt like an eternity, I finished the project, gathered up all the children and all the toys (save for one matchbox car apparently) and we headed out. It was mid afternoon but I was done with parenting that day, so I took the kids to see Shrek 4. I remember sitting in the theater with a large popcorn and coke (because at that point I needed all the free refills I could get) and wondering how I was going to make it through the whole parenting thing.
I kept thinking wow, some days this parenting gig is really hard. Sleepless nights. Messes. Potty training. Tantrums. Some days were great, but some days were really unbelievably hard. And on the hard days, I had a tendency to forget the great days.
Instead of focusing on the good, I would focus on the future back then. I told myself that parenting got easier. Kids started sleeping through the night. They learned to clean up after themselves. They outgrew the meltdowns.
You guys, I was wrong.
My kids still don’t sleep. Someone is always having a nightmare. Or needs a nebulizer treatment. Or has to be woken up at the crack of dawn to finish the homework they didn’t complete the night before. They might know how to clean up after themselves, but they don’t often do it without an eye roll and a stomp down the hall. The tantrums where they lay on the floor and scream for ice cream have been replaced by the kind where they sit on the couch and glare at me while they mutter under their breath about what a mean mom I am. Or if they are feeling particularly feisty, instead of muttering it, they scream it out loud.
We may have mastered potty training, but at times we’re struggling with new things now. School. Friends. Responsibilities. We’ve got some great things too. Like baseball games and children who occasionally make me breakfast. But on the hard days, I still have a tendency to look toward the future and think someday it will be smooth sailing.
As I stared at my son’s old match box car yesterday, and the ups and downs of those early parenting years came back, it dawned on me. Parenting is always going to be hard. There will be middle school, and high school, and (hopefully) college. But that won’t be the end. There will always be something. My mom calls me every now and then worried about my brothers or sister. I don’t doubt that she calls them from time to time worried about me. We get older, and the lessons and seasons of life change. But there’s no big parenting finish line. There’s no easy time to come. This gig in all it’s messy glory, never ends. The truth is, that we’ve still got plenty of hard times ahead. What I’ve got to remember and learn to focus on during those days, is that we have plenty of awesome times too.