As much as I want to love summer, I don’t. It’s more than just not liking it; I pretty much hate it.
It takes a lot for me to admit this, as I really want to be a mom who loves summer and has a great time. But the thing is that summer means my husband is gone for about three full weeks. Two weeks of mission trips and then two 3-4 day retreats plus other odd day trips.
Here’s how it goes: the first trip comes and goes and I think, how easy! I did it! Why do I always dread summer? Then there is the second trip and I begin to realize why it’s so tough and then those last 3-4 day trips come with only 3 days between them.
Bilbo Baggins said it best: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped across too much bread.”
I look at my life and feel like this shouldn’t be a big deal. I have both sets of grandparents in town, willing and able to help. I have had offers from other family members or parents of the youth Rob has taken on the trip. My kids’ preschool has summer sessions, so three days a week they are in preschool. We have a house with air conditioning and a car that works and food on the table and plenty of toys and things to do. It should be enough.
I look at other moms with less help or no husband in the picture or no family in town and I feel like I’m a whiny brat. I should be able to coast through this time. I should.
Sometimes in parenting, the what should loses out to the what is. It should be enough, but the reality is that I limp through. Counting your blessings and giving thanks can really help so much. So can looking at how much worse things could be. Looking at both what good you have and what bad you don’t have can help, but it is not always enough to buoy you through. It does not mean that you won’t suffer or struggle. Someone else having it worse does not cancel out your hard time.
Let me paint you a picture of this past weekend.
-Lincoln, who has been potty-trained for over a year, peed in his pants four times. Not accidents. Intentional urination that has to do with attitude or missing his dad or some kind of rebellion.
-Sawyer, who has been potty-trained for three years, peed on his brother. He also peed into a bunch of those tiny medicine cups in our bathroom.
-My toilet broke. Rob’s dad came and fixed it. Then it started leaking.
-I let the boys play on the back patio with buckets of water. They got into a bag of potting soil and dumped it all over the patio and all over themselves and clogged up our drain.
-Almost every time I’ve told them to do something, they’ve done the opposite.
-They’ve talked back to me and to my parents. They’ve fought. They’ve broken things.
-Lincoln got a cough and Sawyer got a cold, so on top of everything else, they are not feeling 100% and we can’t really go places or hang out with people.
-Oh, yeah–I also have a baby.
Thankfully Cooper is super easy, because otherwise, I would feel even worse. I’d be a pat of butter scraped over a giant sized baguette instead of just a slice of sandwich bread. But still: there have been times where all of my children have been crying at one time and it’s just…too much.
Some of you may be reading and thinking, Why does she have three kids if it’s so hard? Why would she think about having any more? Some of you may be reading and thinking, Why can’t she just look at all the blessings? Some of you might be reading and thinking, I’m feeling that exact same stretch in my life right now.
I do love my kids. I do love parenting. That doesn’t mean it is not insanely hard, even when I have help, even when I have so much. When it’s hard, it’s HARD. Period. Counting the cost, I can say that I would be open to more kids, even knowing how hard these summer months are. Because I know that generally speaking, these stretched thin times are seasons. The summer simply happens to be my most thin season.
I’m not writing this for sympathy or to be a big whiner, but in the hope of solidarity. I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes feeling so thin and stretched. Whatever your circumstance or the reason, perhaps you are there as well, or you’ve been there and felt alone. Whether your circumstances would say that you have it better or worse compared to mine doesn’t matter. What you’re in is what you’re in and sometimes that is simply HARD.
Often we may smile too brightly, say we are fine when someone asks, because we should have it all together. We should. But sometimes? We don’t. And I think the best thing is sometimes to admit that and ask for help or cry with a good friend or your spouse or send an email to a friend.
By the time you read this, Rob will have just come home after his last weekend trip. The kids and I have had some really great laughs this weekend. We’ve done activities. We have made memories and learned things and most of all we have survived.
I can still say there is joy in parenting, though at the moment, it is simple head knowledge, not something I feel in my heart. If you are out there with kids, you probably relate. And if you don’t yet have kids and are considering, please know that there are seasons of being stretched thin. But I’d like to think we grow in those seasons, and also? Those seasons end and then you may get a new, beautiful season and maybe that is followed by another really hard one.
Even in the middle of what is my hardest season, I can say that it is well. I am buoyed and cheered by grace, even if I won’t fully feel its effects until I’m in that new season. For now, it is enough to simply carry me through this one.