A friend asked me the other day how my girls were doing and my answer was simply “Oh, they’re still just right here.”
And while this answer is no surprise to any parent—stay at home, working, or a little blend of both—the phrase “right here” carries so much in it. Especially in the season of littles. It carries closeness and laughter, exhaustion and-at times-clingy dependency. It’s little people full of “independence” who actually can’t do much for themselves. Like at all.
You dress, bathe, comfort, feed, hold, entertain, buckle in, zip up, clean up, and wipe butt all day, or whatever portion of the day you’re with them. And they’re by your side, in your arms, on your lap, climbing you when you’re doing laundry or cleaning or getting dressed or trying to get anything done…they’re right there.
And some days the right here of it all takes every ounce of patience and grace I have until the well runs dry. Then I turn into a lunatic by the end of the day, barking orders and expecting better from these tiny ingrates. Other days I’m soaking in their innocence and sweetness and how much they just like being around me, no matter how much of my crazy comes out. They think I’m hilarious and they keep life a little lighter. They sing and twirl and chatter and play as if the world has no deeper needs or expectations for them.
And even though I get zero minutes of privacy, I’m sure someday I’ll miss them being around so much. Less in the bathroom portion of the day, like when my two year old busts through the door,
“Mom are you going poopy on the potty??? Good job! I’m so proud of you!”
“Thanks buddy. Get out.”
Their grace for me is limitless. I am not yet the enemy; even in my own discipline or consequences, it’s still my arms they run to and my comfort they seek. In their highest high and lowest low, they still want to be right here with me, with us, because we are their safe people. The people who love them unconditionally and who’s hearts beat the same rhythm as theirs. They don’t know yet they can chose another way. They deeply love and need us, and the feeling is mutual.
These feelings can also be exhausting. It’s so constant, and their needs are unending. But as they grow, their needs and interests begin to fan out and other sources meet some of these needs. Or at least that’s what we’re banking on.
The ever-present feeling of the little days is a heavy load, but I strongly believe we were created with the strength to carry it, even if it doesn’t always feel like we were. It is good and by biological design that they are so interwoven with us. They are designed to need us, to find their center in us, to laugh and cry with us and look to us for direction and stability. They will someday expand into a whole new world of people and activities and passions…but for now, it’s just us.
How present we are matters. How gentle we are matters. The boundaries we set or discipline we chose or the way we show them grace and give them instruction…it all matters.
And it’s not done well in the margins of a busy life or behind the screen of a smart phone (I’m guilty. So guilty). It’s done in the tedious and tiring, fulfilling and rewarding time of a sacrificial life poured out into theirs. A life laid down for the growing and loving of little’s who desperately need us.
The irony is that this most important work often feels mundane, boring, and even belittling. It’s scrubbing poop and barf and teaching them to not pee in their pants or throw food everywhere. It’s teaching kindness and empathy and repeating yourself 100 times a day and praying it sticks before your totally lose your marbles. It lacks applause and gratitude, and it’s tempting to feel lost in it all, like surely something is wrong or it wouldn’t be this hard.
If you feel like you’re sacrificing a little bit of you for them, that’s good. That’s how it should be. If you feel like you have lost some of you as you’ve poured your life into theirs, then you’re doing it right. There will be time again for so many things, for jobs and passions and free time and hot showers without interruptions. But they’re only this little, this sweet, this innocent and in full-on need of you once. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss it.
With everything, there is a season. A season to strengthen the walls of your home. To give love and attention and priority to the little needs all around you. You won’t always have to make so many sacrifices and compromises, but for awhile, the imbalance feels exactly like the surrendering of yourself that it is.
In case nobody has told you, the work you are doing is critical. It is work nobody else can do but you. I know it doesn’t always feel as important as it is, but you are changing the world by loving your people and devoting yourself to them.
Keep loving and sacrificing and laying your life down. In the middle of the tears and naps and chores and exhaustion, I pray you find glimpses that the life you’re living really is the good life.
And I am confident that as sweet as it is now, it just keeps getting better.