Panning for Hope

May 20 2011

Christy’s a mom to one boy and twin girls, and an emeritus member of the “3 kids under 3 years old” club.  Which has to be at least a Category 4 out of 5 on the YIKES! Scale.

So when I found out in 2006 that my 4th kid was Buy One/Get One Free – twins! -, I went straight to Christy for advice.

I said, “Christy!  How do I do it?  How do I parent twins and older kids and keep my crap together??”

But Christy didn’t give me any concrete details.  (Argh!  I was hoping for a copy of the secret How to Keep Your Crap Together Handbook.)

Instead, she simply said, “You can do it.  Just watch.  Every three months, something will get better, easier, or more fun.”

So I started looking.  Every 3 months.  And, sure enough, Christy was right.  Something DID get better.  Or easier.  Or more fun.

Now that a few of my missing brain cells have returned home to roost (Please stay, brain cells, and I promise not to traumatize you so much in the future!), I’ve started to be suspicious of Christy’s advice.  Sort of a slow, “Heeeeeyyy!  I see what you did…”

‘Cause here’s what I suspect:  Christy wasn’t just giving me advice on what to expect with twins.  Christy was shifting my perspective from the mundane and myopic details of my life and giving me hope, instead.

I’ve parented young children in two ways.  The tunnel vision way, and the hopeful way.

With my oldest, I had tunnel vision, and there was no light at the end of that long, dark hole.  I didn’t know… really didn’t… whether I’d ever sleep again.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed and thought I might stay that way for the rest of my life.  I spent a lot of dark nights crying in the hallway, begging God to make my child sleep.

Oh, I loved my precious baby girl.  I cherished every hair that stood straight up, Troll Doll style, on her tiny, little head.  I relished her huge, unnaturally firm cheeks that weren’t a bit squishy like other babies’.  I giggled at her leg fat rolls and the way I could make a whole Q-Tip stand straight up squashed inside them.

(FYI, you stick anything in my fat rolls, and I’ll clock ya.  Oh, the blessings of being a baby.)

But I was Just. So. Tired.

Then we adopted two special needs toddlers.  And that was harder.

Then our marriage sucked.  And that was harder.

Then we had twins.  And that was… easier?

Yes.  Easier.

Better.

More fun.

For all seven of us.

Marriage – better.

Special needs kids – easier.

Parenting – more fun.

So I look back now, and I think, what changed?  How did I go from tunnel vision to glad parenting?

To be fair, a lot of the change was the result of simply living in the trenches.  Putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, and choosing to be there for each other when it was Hard.

After all, you can’t underestimate the value of surviving parenting first hand and knowing it can, in fact, be done.

But Christy had a lot to do with it, too.

Because, by the time the twins came, and Christy shared her words of twin wisdom, I was ready for the perspective shift.

I was willing to believe that Hard wouldn’t last forever.  I was willing to take a chance on the idea that Hard can be just a season, and that Better and Easier are lurking around the corner.

And I was willing to start watching for them.  Sending up surveillance planes to keep an eye out for Easier.  Putting scouts on the path to suss out Better.  And hanging streamers and baking a cake as though More Fun really would come to my party.

Christy told me to keep an eye out.  Is it because she knew I’d need the reminder to step back every 3 months?  To look around?  To take a deep breath and suck in the clear, fresh air of Better?

Well, you can’t fool me, Christy.  I’ve caught on to your little tricks.  (Or, rather, you can fool me, but only for 4 years.)

You know what, friends?  Sometimes, things are still Hard.  And exhausting.  And overwhelming.

But mingled into those days and moments, like gold in a river, are Better, Easier and More Fun.

And I just don’t mind much anymore that it takes getting soggy, cold and muddy to wade into the river and pluck out my treasure.  Because I have the tools I need to find the gold… my trusty, rusty pan, friends and family who’ll wade out with me, and the determination and hope to wash off the muck to see the beauty underneath it all.

Thanks, Christy.