A Small Gift in the Near-Dark

The dishwasher sits open, one lonely row of cups on top. The clean clothes are piled on the couch. The dirty clothes are a waterfall out of the hamper. I had to say, "Put on your pajamas" 847 times tonight. (I do have 5 kids, but it was way more than 5 times.) A handful of candy corn landed in my mouth, despite my attempt to detox from sugar this weekend (ok, several handfuls!). My new running shoes lay under other shoes, rejected.

This is my actual laundry. Not all of it, of course! 
"Why do I even try?" was the soundtrack of my mind. To keep the house clean. To ask them to do something. To be healthy. To fold clothes that will likely end up in the hamper while still clean. After I ran through all the reasons not to try at home, my mind drifted to work. Middle schoolers who have no interest in speaking English correctly, much less writing it well. Administrators who ask so many things of me that I can't keep track of them all. And then, society and politicians, who all want higher test scores with less money and no creativity. "Why do I even try?"

I was nursing the baby. She spit up on me. I added "to put on clean clothes" to my mental list of defeat. That was the metaphorical straw. Never mind that it was only a bit. Never mind that I hadn't even showered today, so to shower at night is no big deal. Never mind that I wasn't going anywhere. Never mind that I actually had another clean nursing tank (not in my drawer, but the pile on the couch). The tears fell out, unable to be held back.

Then, she looked right at me in the near-dark.

She smiled. She cooed.

All was not right with the world. But it was bearable. I thanked God for that small (and, at the same time, huge) gift.

I will not be able to keep the house clean any time soon. There will be overflowing hampers for years to come. (I can hear my mother's voice telling me that doesn't have to be true. She's so optimistic. It does for me - my emotions, my kids, my job, it will be true for some time, I'm sure.) But, there will also be smiles and giggles in this house. There will be cuddles and stories read and told. There will be PB&J dinners at the table and tents in the living room. There will not always be baby smiles and coos. I will miss this someday, they tell me. Someday, I will gladly trade the empty hampers and couches, the clean kitchen counters and even uninterrupted writing time to get back a big baby smile and sweet coo in the near-dark.

I try to do all that other stuff because it's necessary. I try and fail and fail in so many categories. But my babies are loved. More importantly, they know they are loved. I'd rather fail at everything else than at that.


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