i spent the past week babysitting my brother’s three small children. i am a seeker of all kinds of adventures, and this was one like no other. a glimpse into the trump-all adventure of parenthood.
(i’ve experienced such glimpses before, but for some reason or another, this one was particularly poignant.)
among other things, i kissed owies better, tried to sooth choruses of screams when i really felt like screaming myself, changed the most world’s most epic stinky diaper (you are probably thinking, i have seen worse, but i honestly doubt it), drove to the elementary school in my nightgown, made a memory game and a chalkboard canvas out of the driveway, wiped up literally countless piles of spit-up, barely won the wrestling match in the pew during sacrament meeting, safely (but perhaps just barely) frequented the swimming pool and the school playground, sang lullabies and made pigtails and shook formula into bottles and desperately promised fruit snacks for good behavior.
every night when the kids went to sleep at 7:30, i was exhausted. knackered. it was fun, but there were flashes when the thought “i really can’t do this!” ran through my head. it was crazy and it was so hard. these kids are so adorable and so good - and it was only a week!
here is the naive and amazed question of my childlessness – how do parents do it?
in the same week that the incredulousness of this query showed up for me repeatedly, i found the answer. in a tiny flake of split-second bliss where i felt what i’m sure is just a small taste of a certain brand of golden, liquid joy preserved for moms and dads. this is an emotion that would absolutely, absolutely propel a parent to keep doing what i did (the past seven days) week in and week out, no matter how crazy things got. it was miraculously and magnificently energizing and empowering and motivating and so, so, so beautiful.
i was sitting on the beach at san juan capistrano. the sun was saying goodnight with simple yellows and that lightest of blues. mckay was digging, silhouetted in front of the shimmering waves, baby cubby was sitting nuzzled to my left side, and lyla stood in the sand holding my thumbs. i pumped my arms as her feet willowed into the beach and she giggled in the amber light. her hair was wispy. cubby’s body was warm. mckay radiated the plain happiness of childhood. the hairs on my arms stood on end. the world stopped spinning. just for a moment, just for that wildly beautiful moment. as if unable to contain such euphoria and such love.
soon came the whines and the spit-up and the encroaching night. the moment came and went, but maybe it will last me until i can have a similar but amplified experience with a child that is mine?
i thank heaven that god has put into us this extraordinary but so human ability to love.
more snapshots of the adventure:
one night we took a little hike near noah and kristi’s house. i thought it was a great idea. i had the baby in the baby carrier, the soft air of california evening was lovely, the kids were excited. we found fields of purple wildflowers and picked them and winded through the green hills and got to the top of one slope and sat down in a patch of flowers overlooking the valley. perfect. then – mckay started itching. and all heck broke loose. he must have been allergic to something in that idyllic patch – he frantically scratched and freaked out. “oh man! oh man! charity! i am a little bit worried that i have an itching disease!!!” we were far from home, it had turned chilly, lyla decided to get in on the freaking out. cubby just chilled in the baby carrier but gave a colossal spit-up about every 90 seconds. i had to apologize to mckay for getting a little mad, and then i coached him squealing and scratching and all the way home to a hot baking-soda bath. i prayed so hard that he didn’t have poison ivy, and the bath and some lotion did the trick. phew.
my view from the driver’s seat on the way to church. something about looking back at the kids in the review mirror just melts my heart. sheesh those are cute and sweet kids.
the big pay-off was that after noah and kristi got home, they let me use their season passes and take mckay to disneyland. it was so fun. i nearly forgot how genuinely magical and truly fun disneyland is. we had a blast.
it was a fantastic, stretching, exciting, tiring, happy week.
more than anything in the whole wide world, i desire those parent moments of incalculable love. this is my greatest life ambition.