For nearly a week now I’ve been clinging to five-minute increments of quiet while E plays flips the stiff pages of a board book or gnaws contentedly on a toy. And in between those five minute spaces I’ve tried everything.
“Are you still hungry? Is it your teeth? Do you need tylenol again? You can’t be tired already… Shall we go outside for a bit?” Anything. Anything to stop the grunting, the whining. Camp is flexing its muscles, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. The woods are wearing their Sunday best. Ocean Spray like lace spills from rocky outcroppings, Showy Daisies and Black-eyed Susans pin an emerald cape to the shoulders of the hills. The meadows wear lavender flowers of Columbine in their hair. And for a week I struggled every day; just don’t cry, just don’t cry.
I cry anyway. By the time he goes down for his morning nap I have been tempted to pull my hair out so often that if I had any follow-through, I’d be bald. When he wakes up, too early and still cranky, the angst has scarcely had time to settle. I try to remind myself of all that is lovely.
“You’re a sweet boy, and we adore you,” I whisper. He stares blankly while I spoon up more applesauce and attempt to smile around the despair I feel. I try to play with him. He only wants to be held. I try to let him play in the other room; maybe if I am out of sight he will be content. I only get one dish washed before he is crawling across the kitchen, wailing heartily with real tears in his hazel eyes. Forget the dishes. Maybe he needs another nap. Ten minutes of “cry-it-out” later, I reluctantly admit this is not the solution either.
All the camp is blossoming, all the hearts are reveling in discipleship and the study of God together. These are glory days, and these are breaking days.
Yet somehow, these days drive me deeper into faith, deeper into marriage, deeper into parenting. I pray nearly constantly, and God begins to answer. After nearly a week, the teething abates slightly, the smiling boy is back, recommencing his giggles. Grant digs in, buying me chocolate, telling me to set aside the dishes for when he’s home, changing the diapers. I get down on the floor instead of cleaning or scrolling or reading, and we play tag, tackle, chase. The beauty begins to shape out of the frustration. The glory of life grows slowly back up beside the brokenness. I take time to look at the hard edges of parenting a 1 year old and I ask God for eyes to see what he would show me; ears to hear what he would tell me, a heart to receive what he would give.
When we walk down to dinner, I point out the way bushes bloom out of rocky crevices. I chatter back to E’s cooing and we discuss all things wide and wonderful. I breathe deep and smile at the wriggling boy, and count the stars in the waving grass with the few minutes I’ve been given.