I've been doing a lot of reading these days, and I recently finished, I'll See You Again. If you're not familiar with the book, it's a heartbreaking story: Jackie Hance, a stay-at-home mother of three girls, had to come to terms with the loss of all of her children when her sister-in-law (driving under the influence) drove the wrong way on a highway and crashed their car on the way back from a camping trip.
I bought the book ages ago, but, superstitiously, it took me a long time to pick it up, with the faces of those three adorable girls staring at me from the front cover. It is completely irrational, but it's hard to shake the deep-seated fear that misfortune is contagious. And I can't imagine a world like that, without my two lovely girls in it.
I'm not saying I've never thought about a life without kids. Sometimes, when I'm at the end of my rope, or I feel like my life is about little more than groceries and daycare pickups and bath time, I admit that I've wondered how different my life would be if my husband and I had decided not to have children. Would we travel more? Have more disposable income? More free time? I'm sure we would. Life in that parallel universe would have its benefits...it would probably even be more satisfying, much of the time.
But that argument only works in the most abstract and general sense. When I imagine a world without my kids, I feel a tightening in my chest, the first stirrings of panic.
I worry about my girls constantly: that I'm raising them well, that they're getting what they need
from me to grow up to be strong, smart, confident women. I would jump in
front of a car to protect them, without hesitation. When they cry in the
middle of the night, however silly the reaction may be, my heart
But when I'm trying to get them to listen or they're melting down in public; when I'm tired and frustrated at the lack of time and space to myself; when it all just seems like work without reward, I forget. Forget what beautiful, loving children I have. The laughter, joy and meaning they've added to my life.
My days are full, and the minutiae of parenting small children isn't always pleasant. But I don't want it to take a tragedy to make me appreciate what I have.
So when my kids are acting like monsters and I'm eying the exits, I'm going to try—really try—to take a moment, a breath, a heartbeat. To remember how lucky I am now, today, in this life.
Because I have my girls.