If you are a parent, do you even remember what life was like before children?
Well of course, we all remember! But it’s hard to imagine going back there – to have no knowledge of how it feels to live several lives simultaneously. Primarily, we’re living our own life. But at the same time we are experiencing the world through at least one other set of smaller, yet much wider eyes.
I have always loved decorating for Christmas. And the post-children Christmas tree is a source of much angst that I’ll discuss later. But while outside looking at our house today, I was struck by how much it reflects the integration of family.
This is what you would see before we had kids:
And this is most definitely after:
Together, it makes for a slightly confusing blend of just right and just a little too much. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Everyone who has children thinks about “before and after.” But some parents have a terrible before and after: before, when the family was together, and after, when one is missing.
On Friday, a new set of parents was initiated into the nightmare of before and after a child was lost. They are just a few among many, but they represent the reality of our uncertain future.
My heart breaks for EVERY parent who has ever lost a child. But instead of indulging in despair for all that is terrible in this world, I am reminded to appreciate the present. To revel in the ordinary. To delight in the day-to-day tedium and frustration of raising children. Today was okay. It was fine. And in that I see extraordinary joy.
This afternoon, I hung my simple wreaths with the pale blue satin ribbons. Then I stepped back to see the juxtaposition of restrained elegance next to garish holiday ornaments and a brown extension cord dangling from our newly exposed front light bulb.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the fact that my house looks a little crazy. I’m ecstatic that my perfectly decorated tree seems to be sprouting new ornaments made of paper cut by tiny, inexperienced hands. The screaming match going on in the basement playroom is music to my ears.
This is life as I know it now. For now, everything is fine.
It’s hard to not feel sad in the face of such terrible grief. Especially knowing that in a split second, I could be one of the grieving.
But I try to remind myself that everything is fine until it’s not. And when everything in your own life is fine, you just have to go with it. Because when it’s not, you never really get fine back.
My heart goes out to everyone missing a much-loved child today – both friends and strangers. And in honor of their treasured before, I’m going to appreciate every second of my now.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life or mired down in petty concerns, I will try to remember what is truly important. To appreciate the exquisite pleasure of a mostly good day with the people I love.
In the face of an uncertain future, I am putting all of my energy into cherishing my own children who are so very HERE right now. I’ll feel sad on my time – not theirs. And I’ll decorate my heart with their chaos and garish enthusiasm for everything that is good.