Nearly every time I take my three youngest out in public a sentimental senior citizen reminds me to enjoy them while they’re young or mentions how quickly they will grow up, how precious these days are. Sometimes they offer their advice when the kids are holding hands and happy and no one has fought over anything in 32.5 seconds. But sometimes it’s while I’m carrying a kid under my arm with an unexpected side of grief and bags under my eyes.
There is a long answer I want to give them but I never offer it. I smile and say “I do” or “I know.”
But I want to tell them that I really do know, that losing a baby whose life I never dreamed would be so short taught me just how fragile small hands are. How lucky we are when our children breath in the next breath after breathing out the last.
I want to tell them I enjoy them on the good days and when they’re goopy and needy and miserable I let myself wallow in this job a little but I always have a second where I’m grateful to be here for them. Where I step back and know how easily it could be gone, how small a heartbeat I was away from empty arms.
Grief and loss changed me in a million small and giant ways but they aren’t all for the worse. I’m sure my kids will remember me sad and distant sometimes, but I hope they will also remember me grateful and present.
Their sister taught me things about motherhood I thought I already knew.
I thought I knew the comfort of rocking a baby until I understood that some rocking chairs get returned.
I thought I felt the surprise of first steps until I watched one take her first steps without a sister following behind.
I thought I appreciated the sweet gesture of sticky cards and backward handwriting until I saw a stick figure drawn with a halo.
I thought I realized the pride of watching the first two wheel bike ride until I met a family who wouldn’t need to buy a bike with blue and green stripes anymore.
If you have the privilege of reading this as the parent of living children do you know there’s a parent out there who envies your Sunday night battle over that long-put-off science fair project?
Do you know there’s a momma who would love to have to find the other shoe just one more time?
There’s a daddy somewhere wishing he could grumble under his breath while he puts together that 8,000 piece Barbie Dream House staring at you from the corner.
And somewhere there are two parents regretting every night they fought over who was going to take the late night feeding, not knowing that one was the last.
I’m not sharing any of this to make you feel guilty, we all press more than enough guilt on ourselves. I’m sharing this to say that on the other side of grief is deep gratitude. We just have to find it.
There is grace waiting for us if we’re ready to gather it up– whether our hands are full or not.
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