Anyone with a child knows how freaking hard it is.
The financial, emotional, spiritual weight that comes along with parenting. The worries. The late nights. The constant “Am I doing this right?!”
Anyone with two children knows it even better. Three, and you’ve got suffocation half the week and brief panic attacks in the car. Four, five…you’re all saints. That’s the only way I can put it. I bow to you.
Heck, I barely get time to blog anymore with my 7-month belly, step-daughter that just started kindergarten, and 1-year old who runs faster than I do on my best days, and has the sweetest smile as well as the monster demeanor of Godzilla with my clean house that last .02 seconds. Life is just–chaos. And the adjustment period of being a mother of nearly three, especially when the pregnancy has been rougher, work has been busier, and kids have been crazier–that adjustment period makes you question your own sanity.
Your car smells of old cheerios and french fries and there’s sticky stuff everywhere. Like why is everything SO sticky all the time?! You haven’t painted in your nails since the turn of the new year and you’re pretty sure your multi-vitamin is the only thing you have done for yourself in a month.
But you love the shit out of them. In ways not even words can touch. It’s unreal. And it’s changed me.
Finances get rough. I’m not alone in this. As a mom, if you’re reading this, I know that you’re a master budget-teer and an expert at making two pennies stretch a week. Sure, I know we all have different levels of struggle. But as parents, we can all agree that you get creative with what you spend and how. Life can just stack up sometimes.
And it gets hard. And emotional. And trying. And damn near impossible at times. There is always that shift and that adjustment period of simply making it work because you have no other choice.
And yet–all I can think about today is this: A birthday balloon.
This one, right here, held by my joyful toddler who looks like he just caught the moon.
We were at the market two evenings ago getting some groceries in the house, and I was on my phone bringing up coupons and going through my list. It was a hard week due to some extenuating circumstances and bills that had popped up last minute. I’m already a total “need versus want” kind of person to a fault, but I saw some earrings on sale that I really liked. So I tossed them in the basket, thinking that spoiling myself time and again is obviously just fine. And necessary. I had a budget I was sticking to until next payday, but they were just earrings.
But that’s when we got to the line and River’s eyes found that damn birthday balloon.
*No, it’s not his birthday* but boy does that kid love balloons. You would think they were stars. He waved at it, pointed at it with his chubby little finger, and just couldn’t take his eyes off it. I glanced at the price tag real quick and guffawed at the price. Ten bucks for a balloon? The cashier laughed and said, “I know, right? Expensive plastic.”
Same price as the clearance earrings.
He motioned again for it.
So yes, you know the rest of the story. He ended up with the balloon tied to his wrist, cackling in joy, radiating the sweetness of just being in love with a moment. And I put the ten dollar earrings back in the candy rack.
At that point, who cared about earrings. If I was going to go above my allotted budget for that week, it was going to be for this balloon.
“Us mommas do anything for those little tikes, huh?” The cashier said, and I laughed and nodded in solidarity. But she’s right.
It’s a silly story really that probably won’t carry much relevance to anyone, but it did to me. And I remembered, standing there in the check line, a memory from my childhood. So many memories actually. I remember my mom putting things back in the line. Shoes, earrings, hair dye, weight loss shakes. I remember her subtly checking price tags and trading things out. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I would give her a hard time for it.
“Why don’t you do more for yourself?” I’d ask. “Why do you always put stuff back?”
And her response was always the same. “What you got makes me happier.”
I thought it was silly up until I had River.
I thought it was ridiculous until I saw my little boy with his expensive giant balloon, proud in his shopping cart as it bounced along with his wrist.
I’m not saying us moms shouldn’t think of ourselves. Of course we should. Get your hair done, buy those cute shoes–do what you can when you can. I do it too. But this story isn’t about that lesson. It’s more about the little cracks in life that you have to make tiny little decisions along the way and suddenly you realize what it’s guided by now.
When the budget is tight, when the bills stack up, when life is getting hard and you’re cutting corners–you still have the ten dollars for the balloon. You just make a way.
I’m suddenly more overwhelmingly grateful now as a mother for my dad who drove the same truck with no floor for over a decade like Fred Flintstone and for my mom, who would put the shoes back and get me the doll I was eyeing. As a mother I’m now more aware of the all the moments parenthood is tied so closely with godhood, the unselfish and undivided love of just wanting your kids to embrace joy–whether it’s simply a full belly, or a trip to Disneyland, new school shoes, or a birthday balloon from Safeway.
I’m so grateful for the switch that gets turned on in our hearts that gives us, in turn, more joy than I’ve ever felt in my life. It never feels like a loss. Not once.
I think back to the days when my life was totally centered around just me. I didn’t hesitate getting the things I wanted when I was single and kid-less. Book a hair appointment? Sure. New high heels? Why not. Clearance earrings? Score! Life was about taking care of Kayla.
But now all I want, I actually already have. There’s so much more happiness here.
Right there in size 5 tennis shoes with leftover applesauce on his shirt gawking at a helium balloon and knowing without a doubt that mom will always take care of him. Trusting, unrelentingly, that he won’t ever go without. That mom and dad will provide.
And I’m so grateful for the moments my own parents taught me what it takes. Not with material things or giving in to my every whim–but by teaching me selflessness, devotion, and pure love in the little things they think I didn’t notice. The little things I thought were silly then, like how mom told me she was stuffed when there was just one chicken thigh left in the baking dish and I was a growing kid or how my dad would work late ten months out of the year to make sure we got a summer vacation. The little things that are actually big things, forming who I’d be as a parent later on.
But that joy. That joy, despite what we put back, the sacrifice it takes, or even the toll it takes on our reflection as the years go by (I know what I’m talking about at 7 months pregnant. Holy moly.)
That joy. It really is something. My best decision in life was finding my husband and having my precious children. But my best decision that day? It was tied to my baby’s wrist.