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Challenge: Keeping Your Cool

The Beauty of a Child's Unconditional Love

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The beginning of the year has come and gone and January is over. I started 2018 with every intention of making this year the best one yet, but doesn’t everyone? I went to the grocery store that first, fresh week and bought an elaborate (and expensive) cart full of organic and healthy food. I planned to make green smoothies every morning before my kids went to school, chocked full of spinach and chia seeds to send them out the door on the right foot. I researched the best protein-rich egg muffins and how to make gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil. I was determined that this time around, my kids wouldn’t scarf down hot dogs and cheese crackers for almost every meal, and that I’d finally grow more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.

Instead, that first morning I made a green smoothie and handed it in a sippy cup to my son, he promptly turned the entire thing over and threw it top-down onto my really pretty, really new area rug. The lid came crashing off and the contents spilled everywhere. Tons of dish detergent, baking soda and scrubbing didn’t take it out, so there it sits today, a reminder of my good intentions and hard efforts, and also of the fact that kids will be kids.

I’d also planned to make 2018 the year I become more organized. A lifelong lover of sticky notes and stacks, I’d somehow managed to turn our kitchen into a dropzone, where bills and magazines co-existed alongside homework, school projects, and grocery lists. As a result, I couldn’t find anything quickly, and my to-do lists were often the first to go missing. So I got my daily planner in order for the first time and told myself I’d stick to a neater, more consistent routine of organization. I sorted the papers, got rid of a ton, and assigned designated spots for certain types of documents that would pass through our doors.

Still, I often struggle to make sense of it all. My daughter was supposed to turn in her school library book last week and it took us a good half hour to locate it. Finally, we found it in the cabinet beside the television, stuck in between coloring books and letter-writing worksheets. I’m still working on finding a system that works for our family, and I still spend a good chunk of time every evening picking up the tornado of debris that inevitably gets strewn about during the day as these tiny toddlers run from room to room, playing and laughing uncontrollably.

For all of my efforts, it seems I still fall short. I’m not as patient as I’d like to be, for one. It doesn’t take much for my nerves to become fried, even though another resolution of mine was to absorb and appreciate every day, and every moment. I still can’t cook a juicy whole chicken, and I haven’t exercised three times a week like I’d intended.

Yet, I tucked my daughter in last night and before she rolled over on her side and grabbed her teddy bear to fall asleep, she gathered my face in her hands, pulled me close and said “Thank you, mama. I love you.” My tears fell as I hugged her. The thing is, our babies don’t see the messes. They don’t see the chaos and the clutter. They only see a loving, safe home where they can play and be themselves. I look at my closet, and see so much that needs rearranging, or clothes that need to be put back up on the hangers. They see a whole new world to explore, and when I can’t find them during the day, it warms my heart to find them inside that tiny space, playing with Legos while buried inside my dresses and blouses, a wonderland that’s all theirs. Where I see a kitchen that needs a total overhaul and renovation to fit all our devices and tools, they see drawers of mixing bowls and wooden spoons just waiting to be turned into makeshift drum sets.

They don’t recognize when I’m impatient, or when I reheat my fifth cup of coffee just to make it to bathtime with my sanity intact. They see a mama who loves them to their core, and would do anything to show them that. They’re forgiving to a fault and overly abundant with their love. They’re kind and generous and adore me, faults and all. How absolutely freeing that is, and how incredibly beautiful. I often look at them, and tell them multiple times throughout the day, that I love them unconditionally. I remind them they’re always going to have my love, and there’s nothing they could ever do to change that.

I forget to remind myself, however, that they feel the same way about me. And for everything I haven’t done this year so far, there’s a ton that I have accomplished. I see it when I look in their sky blue eyes, and when they race into my arms at preschool pickup. I’m grateful for their grace and their mercies that are new every morning. It’s a mutual love without end that never fails, even when I do.

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