Before and Now

7

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.

7 Responses to Before and Now
  1. katie corbridge
    December 15, 2012 | 10:33 pm

    I have had the same thoughts all day and in fact already wrote a blog post about my feelings earlier. I haven’t had the time to re-read or edit it but will do so tomorrow. enjoy those darlings of yours. they’re sure lucky to have you as their Mom and one who understands the important aspects of life and family! xx

  2. Kenna
    December 16, 2012 | 8:29 am

    Very beautifully written. I wrote something a while ago about ordinary days and how to cherish them. You have expressed these precious moments so well. Thank you.

  3. Robin from Israel
    December 16, 2012 | 8:47 am

    Amen to that.
    Robin from Israel recently posted..On a return to normalcyMy Profile

  4. fadkog
    December 16, 2012 | 8:41 pm

    Truly and beautifully, yes.

  5. Lady Jennie
    December 17, 2012 | 10:46 am

    This is exactly how I feel.

    And I love your house – I don’t think the ornaments are too much for a family with kids. :-)
    Lady Jennie recently posted..A Christmas CarolMy Profile

  6. heidi
    December 17, 2012 | 6:24 pm

    This is beautiful, Kate. Bitter and sweet, all at once. Thank you for this.
    heidi recently posted..promiseMy Profile

  7. Loukia
    December 18, 2012 | 1:36 pm

    Nothing puts things in perspective like when something horrible happens in the news, in the world, to a friend, to another child. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times this year (and every year, really, since becoming a mom) I’ve counted my blessings. I get upset, I yell, I get tired, but then I remember. And then that changes my attitude pretty damn quickly. Kate, I haven’t been able to not think about Friday’s tragedy. I cry in my car twice a day. A picture, a song, a story, from Newtown, and I bawl. I can’t deal. I was at my son’s JK Christmas concert today and there were less than 20 kids in his class. Looking at all those faces… I almost lost it.
    Thinking about dear blogging friends, too, who go on with strength and love, like Anna… I think about them, too. Especially right now before Christmas. We should appreciate and make the most out of every minute. Because who knows… who knows…
    God bless you guys… xoxo
    Loukia recently posted..Heartbroken And HorrifiedMy Profile

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