Since having three kids, there are many days that I simply hibernate with them. Especially in the winter.
Why? Because thought of spending thirty minutes getting a 5, 3 and 1 year old ready in their warm-weather layers and having the bag of extra snacks, underwear, diapers and milk fully stocked … only to have one of them melt down, pee their pants or sprint away from me in a parking lot … is simply exhausting.
“I’ll just come up with a new activity to do inside the house today to keep things fresh,” I think as I absolve myself … right before the temptation to clean, internet browse or let the kids watch a movie creeps in.
While it’s easy to choose to hide from the potential exhaustion of leaving the fort with my three not-so-independent littles, it’s harder to avoid the day-after-day feeling of isolation.
Isolation from the world. From human interaction. From spontaneity. From potential memories. From that other version of myself who is much more patient, happy, and easy to be around when I am not “stuck” inside the seemingly-closing-in walls of monotony.
I can assure you that if I’m feeling the effects, my kids are feeling the repercussions too.
So recently… after a string of “I can’t do this same thing again” days… I made a choice to start to try more often. It didn’t have to be a grand event, just something that broke the routine.
That day, after sending up a small “please God” to the skies , we ventured out to the grocery store. Baby in her car seat in the belly of the cart. The sprinting toddler strapped into the seat. The helper on her feet alongside us. (aka storm prevention)
I made a game out of our small list of things to get with the hope of keeping things fun and distracting them from any schemes to derail us.
The rules? We had to dance every time we found our item. The dances got more silly and the laughs louder as we went down the list. Along the way we talked about being nice to strangers, why we say “excuse me” when someone is in our way, why it’s important to save our money and, well… why it’s not ok to scream at your little sister for simply making a sound. (but anyways).
Despite my son’s thrashing in his seat at checkout when I wouldn’t unhook him before we got to the car … and the awkward head-smash on the trunk door when I turned to pick up a toy that fell in a puddle … and the screaming match on the way home to determine whose favorite song would play in the car…
And the majority of the time we smiled and had a good time. And most of all? It WASN’T inside the hamster wheel in our house. And that part put a band-aid on whatever sting was left over from me vs. trunk door.
I channeled the momentum later that week and decided to bundle up my littles to enjoy the latest snowfall. Even though we spent more time getting ready than being out there, and my daughter’s snowsuit was so small I could see most of her shins, and someone peed in his snowsuit, and I’m certain my one year old picked up a cold for being out there fifteen minutes too long… It was all worth it the moment I put my little man to bed.
I announced it was nap time, and he quietly put down his trains, found his blanket and walked over to me with his arms in the air and a grin on his face. I stood there in shock at the silence and cooperative movement that replaced what was normally screams and flailing limbs.
After soaking in the cuddle-fest on the way to his room, the little boy who typically only opens his mouth to speak about trains, sports, food, or to tell on his sisters… said to me, “Mommy, sank you so much for pwaying outside wif me in da snow today and makin me a snowman,” before flashing me a giant no-teeth-showing grin and climbing into his bed.
I paused to let my heart take it in, kissed him extra hard on his forehead and told him how much I loved him.
It was in that moment I realized something.
Maybe what matters most to my kids is that I simply TRY.
Even if I fail. Even if it’s hard. Even if we all melt down.
They want effort. They want to see me seeking out adventure and avoiding mundane. To see me playing, interacting and showing up… and not stressing, cleaning and hiding.
And that matters to me too. Not just for my mindset today… but for my memory down the line.
Because decades from now when I look back on these days… I won’t remember how quickly I folded my laundry or that meme I saw on my mindless social media scroll, but I WILL remember that tiny voice telling me “sank you” for making the effort to show up in his day.