Present Parenting When Real Life Hurts

Some days parenthood is downright Instagram-worthy. 

On those days, my toddler's world is an attractive one, and I'm a willing participant in the play-doh creations and the ABC repetitions. I love the days that start with cuddles and coffee and end with bedtime stories and slow-breathing slumber. There are plenty of these days, and being home with my daughter has given me an appreciation for the slow, steady, magical pace of childhood. 

But then there are the days when real life comes knocking. The bills, the what-ifs, the lay-offs, the uncertainties, the decisions, the news. The washing machine malfunctions; the check engine light glows. I've been solidly stuck in those kinds of days recently. These days, I struggle to bridge the divide between my adult world of harsh realities and her world of childhood play. 

When I'm worried and stressed, anxious and upset, grieving and frustrated, it feels impossible to find any satisfaction in yet another walk to the park. Real life co-opts the joy of motherhood too often. It's then that my patience dries up and I just wish she'd join my world; that she'd get it and wallow in the self-pity with me. 

But then, the last thing I want is for her to understand my world. Not yet, not so soon. She doesn't understand—that's why she's plaintively requesting "pool" and "ball" and another sixteen pushes on the swings. She'll someday know the weight of the weary adult world, but for now, joining her world is the best therapy I could ask for. 

Even if all I can muster on some of these real-life days is reading books on the couch, snuggled too close in the sticky heat, her reality is a blessed soother if I welcome it. And if I'm honest with myself—if I lay aside my assumptions and expectations—I know that the real-life days are more frequent than the magical days and that living in this messy in-between with her is a sacred thing.