There are moments.
When you are a parent at home with small children, there are–every once in a while–glorious moments of calm, little oases of rest and beauty nestled within the chaos of life. Not often. But sometimes.
Sometimes there are moments of walking through a neighborhood that is bursting with spring, the golden light and greenery spilling out in every direction.
Occasionally there are moments of sitting on an empty beach, while the children play next to you in the sand.
Or moments at the park, when you find yourself reclining on a picnic blanket in the grass. The children are picking dandelions. You watch the leaves dancing on the branches overhead, you listen to birdsong, you breathe deeply.
You aren’t playing hooky from anything, in these moments.
This really is what you’re supposed to be doing right now.
I am living in an ad in a parenting magazine! You think, sort of giddily.
That lasts for eight seconds or so.
Then someone needs a diaper change, or can’t find their snack, or falls and skins their knee, or just starts calling MAMAMAMAMA for no reason that you can discern.
I used to think those picnic blanket moments weren’t quite true, somehow.
Not because they didn’t happen, but because they represented less than 0.00001% of my day. Most of the other moments had yogurt spilled on them and were really loud.
It didn’t seem fair to snap a photo of the fluttering leaves, or the endless ocean, or the creek with the little stream splashing over the stepping stones. It didn’t seem right to post them to my feed, to show off those lovely little pieces.
I wouldn’t want you to think my whole day looked like that, and I certainly wouldn’t want you to think YOUR whole day should look like that.
Everyone’s moments have something spilled on them.
Maybe the moments are all covered in phone calls and emails to return and looming deadlines and important meetings. Or maybe they’re covered in smooshed banana and glue stick and tiny barrettes. Everybody’s got something.
As the kids grow, the moments between interruptions stretch out—and we fill them right back up again with our tech and our tasks and our plans and our projects. Very few of us actually spend our lives on the picnic blankets.
There’s a reason for that.
Picnic blankets are not terribly fulfilling.
They’re a beautiful respite from the hard work of mothering and mentoring and general soldiering-on—and we need those unexpected moments of grace, those moments when it’s easy to be present, to see and notice and fully appreciate the world around us.
But the interruptions, the tending to others, the everyday everything? All that helps us grow. It deepens our relationships. It keeps our worlds turning.
Moments of grace, moments for the mundane: we need them both.
So now I say, take the photo.
Those beachy, picnicky, blue-sky moments are little rubies sandwiched in among all the cherries. Polish them up. Share them with the world.
Then take a photo of the muddy shoes and mosquito bites that came right after.
We’re not trying to pretend every moment is made of gentle breezes and blooming peonies and tidy braids. We’re trying to embrace it all: the moments of calm and the moments of chaos.
The easy nap and the up-past-bedtime hours.
The family movie night and the morning coffee.
The long walks in the stroller and the short treks to the mailbox, which somehow take just as long as the stroller walks.
The veggies-and-hummus-for-snack days and the lollipops-before-noon days, too.
We claim them all.
When someone else posts nothing but those shimmering calm moments, we will not be intimidated. Sure, their photo streams are pretty, all vintage and backlit and uncluttered and shiny. Maybe that’s the only time their life holds still long enough to focus the camera app. (Why so slow, camera app?) We understand.
But as for the rest of us—we’re going to encourage each other to photograph the spilled paint and the skinned knees, right alongside the blue skies and cotton-candy clouds. The sunset over the palm trees is worth sharing, and so is the blurred two-wheeler speeding past.
We will remember that grace happens in our own backyards.
We will remember that life happens in our own backyards.
We will take it all in, the unblemished shoreline and the ice cream-stained tee shirts. Some moments look impossibly idyllic to us right now, it’s true. But I have a suspicion that it’s all those other moments, the messy everyday ones, that we’re going to look back on with longing, later.
We stack them all up, this moment on top of that one, the wild and the tame together. Our lives aren’t one thing or the other. They don’t have to be.
We can take it all together.
We claim it all.