With the help of one of his hands, he manages to keep his pants up around his waist. The sagging diaper and fresh, wet mud on his behind don’t help him carry his heavy load. He smiles and waddle-runs up our gravel driveway with his sister, brother, and our rambunctious puppy.
I wish I could say I was laughing at the sight of my tiny crowd of wild things but I wasn’t. In the moment I was imagining all the work awaiting me back at the house, already wading knee deep into my mental checklist.
Once inside, I’d need to strip down the three-year old.
Change his diaper.
Put on new pants.
Take baby girl out of the front pack to wiggle around.
Sit with her at my chest to suck warm milk until she falls asleep.
Give my son his naptime snack.
Sing him a round of quick songs while he curls up beneath his covers.
I trudge onward up the driveway, my bones and body ache, I’m barely picking up my feet.
Everything from my busy, dirty children to the puppy at my heels to my very own mind seems determined to work against my forward motion.
We carry babies and burdens, big dreams and bewildering questions. Life can feel heavy even on the lightest, brightest days.
How I long to flip off my shoes and fall in the mud, laugh my head off, and sprint up the driveway too. I swore I would do it this morning. Living free and unfettered felt reasonable, within my grasp just hours ago.
Giddy with expectation, I stand in the mirror after a hot shower, a towel around my head- I am like a fresh newborn. My life holds promises, and I hold the day as a glorious gift weighed down with gold treasures not troubles.
The terrain ahead looks smooth and joyous from this vantage point. I see myself walking gently through the day like a ballerina, responding to my children’s needs with grace, and gushing with wonder while I stand over a sink full of dirty dishes. I am poised. Calm. Centered.
But by three-o-clock life is running away without me. I can’t keep up. All I seem to see is the backside of my children’s heads and my delicate dreams.
We reach the house and the music of the day carries me onward towards the crescendo. I follow its leads with curiosity.
Once the babies are tucked in and the older two are immersed in their show, I climb under a soft pink blanket for a pause.
I dig into and devour those minutes of dreaming, creating, writing, and nourishing myself at the table set before me. It feels like I’m pulling ahead now. I pile my plate full of encouragement, connection, and courage. I catch my breath and gain energy and wipe the sweat from my brow.
Two hours pass without my permission.
The steady beat I was hearing suddenly begins to change. I know, almost instinctively, it’s time to stand up and step into the kitchen.
At this point, my lungs are on fire with hope and exhaustion. I notice every breath is a little labored- no need for worry though, I must be giving life my all.
I stir ingredients together, place them on top of the counter and another feast begins. The fueling of our physical bodies with food for the daily marathon.
Life never stops moving.
The noise seems obnoxiously loud after dinner; we take it as our signal to begin the turbulent descent towards bedtime. Sweet relief is coming soon. I can sense it.
Before stumbling up to my husband already lying in bed with his book, I sit in total darkness feeding the baby for what feels like the millionth time. I hear the music slow, but it doesn’t stop. It woos me towards rest now. Life plays me a lullaby as I collapse next to my husband. I am content to admit defeat.
I raise my hand up to his chest, my position of surrender. He rubs it softly, the circles across my palm put me to sleep instantly.
Life is teaching me to flow in the music more than force forward motion.
Sometimes our limbs and lungs burn from heavy burdens and loving hard and running fast. Other times our muscles soften, our heart quiets, and we relax at the feasting table or slip into deep rest.
There isn’t a ticking clock, a finish line, or a first place prize. Winning is never the goal.
Life only offers us the opportunity to lose ourselves in its song every day. It begs us to listen and be allured by the ever-changing beautiful melodies.
In the end, we are all just waddling our way up the road with muddy, saggy pants like my three-year old.
Our loads might be heavy, our steps slow and sloppy, but those who hear the music learn to love the daily marathon.