When Grant was a baby, not so teeny tiny but probably about eight months old, I was incredibly sleep deprived. Grant hardly napped, and when he did it was a hard fought battle, a mixture of finding the right pattern and casting the right spell. The same could be said of bedtime as well, and his middle of the night wakings were taking a toll on both Mark and I. I was losing my mind and desperate for reprieve.
Somehow (I shall call this a miracle) Grant slept during the day for about an hour while I talked with my cousin, Beth, on the phone (I think the universe knew that I needed intervention). Beth was in the thick of parenting her own two boys – Elias, who was only two weeks younger than Grant, and her then four year old, Will. Elias was an easy baby, a peaceful sleeper who went along with whatever the day or night may bring. But Beth knew difficult babies. Will had not been so easy and peaceful. She was ready to talk me off the ledge.
I remember this all so well because I took notes. Copious scribble on a journalist-style notepad, as if researching for a project, this project that would save my sanity. I don’t have that notepad anymore, can’t remember most of the things that we talked about, her tips for sleep and naps and peace and love. There is one thing that sticks with me, though.
As we talked, I watched the lights on the baby monitor, willing it to stay quiet so that maybe, just maybe, I could get enough tips and pointers, this beacon of hope, before Grant woke up. Walking in circles around the sun porch that we knocked down some years later, the sun bathed me in light and warmth, and through the phone Beth spoke this truth: It won’t always be like this. She didn’t say it gets better, or easier (or harder). She didn’t promise me a formula. She didn’t minimize this anguish that I was feeling. But she did promise me that things change. This, too, shall pass.
That they do.
Grant is almost 8 years old, and while I can say that bedtime remains a difficult time for us, it looks very different than it did 7 years ago.
Last night (or was it the night before? Or last week?), sunk in my own self-pity and weariness, I whined my latest worry and weary to Mark. At the end of pouring out my mind to him, I heard myself say, “One day looks just like the last, and I feel like it’s never going to change.”
It’s easy to feel stuck. To feel as though bedtime will always be treacherous. That I will never any substantial writing done because it’s always interrupted every few minutes. That the kids will never learn to keep their hands to themselves, or that I will never learn to stop yelling at them. To feel as though my wells of patience and love are almost, almost run dry. The wheels are spinning, working ruts in the mud, and there is little other than sheer force to push this heavy one out.
It won’t always be like this, she told me.
This summer was hard. Hard in ways that I didn’t want it to be, in ways I don’t want to admit. Hard in disappointments. Hard is lessons learned. Hard in battles fought, and most often not won. I felt weary and heavy, the weight of it all pressing me deep into those mudded out ruts. It was with this weariness and a heaviness that I opened the door to fall.
Yesterday, while waiting for the bus a gust of wind swooped down our hill. As it did, the kids and I watched a flutter of yellow leaves lift briefly in the gust and the tinkle down to the ground. This, too, shall pass. There is significant beauty in its delicateness, in its fleeting presence.
This beautiful will pass. This hard will pass. There will be more beauty. There will be more hard.
Though I may feel like I’m driving down rutted out roads, caked thick with dried mud, spinning my wheels hardly moving, it won’t always be like this. Maybe this is the trick. Watch, this minute: watch it become the next. Stop spinning those wheels, digging myself deeper down, rutted in. Be still a moment. Feel it, learn it, know it. Notice what is passing, how it is all changing.
This, too, shall pass: those crocodile tears with the flailing legs on the floor, pounding, pounding about some injustice in the life of the three year old. This, too, shall pass: the way she holds my hand, confidently and proudly, as we walk along the sidewalk to her kindergarten classroom. This, too, shall pass: the nervous wave from the soccer field while he checks, again and again, to make sure we are standing stalwart and watching before his game begins. This, too, shall pass: the curtain calls after lights out, just one more drink of water, and then can you walk me back up, too? And check my bed for snakes.
The clouds push through the bright blue sky, the sun rises and sets each day. One moment passes into the next, the river washing grit from beneath rocks, rounding out sharp edges.
Isn’t everything that’s ever been written trying to say just this?