When I was pregnant with River, I often joked to friends and family members that we'd see them in about a year. "We won't be leaving the house for a while" was the feeling I had every time I thought about packing up three kids, two in diapers, one breastfeeding, all three on different schedules. Just thinking about squeezing our new family of five into my Prius made me nervous: would our new (old) double stroller even fit into the hatch back? Would we miss the whole party before I was even able to get them all dressed and loaded into their seats?
But our little family has surprised me. I have been much more calm and patient this time around, letting a lot of things go and practicing grace as much as possible. Naturally, the kids followed suit, their energy a direct reflection of a mama learning to let her OCD tendencies go. Shawn and I have teamed up now more than ever to tackle things around the house, hollering out "team work!!" when things get particularly chaotic and we feel the need to redirect everyone. And our consistency and love of routine has created a natural rhythm for the whole family, resulting in the kids' sleeping and eating schedules all getting on the same page much quicker than we ever could have anticipated. We are learning, day by day, how to get things done, let things go, and laugh at all of the in betweens. It is a growing experience for all of us.
And I'm not scared or nervous anymore. What's the worse that could happen? They cry? Throw temper tantrums in public? People stare at me while I nurse the baby at the zoo? Someone has an accident? I forget to pack essential items? Well, all of that has already happened and we're still alive and well and functioning just fine. There's no need to worry about what could happen or how hard it will be to take them all out together: I know that we can handle anything. We may be exhausted and confused half the time but we can handle it nonetheless. This is just normal parenting stuff, it goes with the territory. Later, we'll tell great stories about the time we took the whole family out and we all spent the entire trip crying, whining, and miserable. But we were there, we were together, and we were making memories. That's all that really matters.
This new, adventurous and optimistic attitude of mine has resulted in some pretty great weekends lately. We've learned to keep the activities short and sweet: don't expect miracles from these little people. They get tired and overstimulated very easily and it's best not to push them too far. Where it's in my nature to say "Just 5 more minutes" or "Let's walk a little bit further", I've learned to scale back and keep it simple. When in doubt, offer snacks. Expect a normally 30 minute drive to now take 2 hours. And most of all: laugh. When they're all in the back seat howling and wiggling and hitting and acting out, try to laugh and keep it light. Surprisingly, they usually stop acting like little tyrants and start laughing, too.
This past weekend included a hiking trip through a state park near our home. We packed a picnic lunch and made it a half day trip, leaving just as it was time for afternoon naps. We arrived just as the early morning fog was lifting and the temperature was still cool. Shawn and I created a scavenger hunt for Belle and Brees, keeping them entertained as they were on the look out for the different animals and trees we called out to them. And River slept through the whole trip. River: the baby who encouraged me to just let it all go. To be present. To embrace the chaos. My peaceful, soothing boy, teaching me about redemption more and more every day.