When the kitchen table is covered in piles of folded laundry, the living room floor is littered with earless Mr. Potato Heads and the sink is overflowing with the crusty dishes from breakfast because you forgot to run the dishwasher before bed last night... again.
When the coffee is cold, the milk is gone, and the sippy cup has leaked all over the kitchen floor.
When the whining is piercing, but the hugs are intense. When the tears are hot and salty and the Band-Aids are magic.
When the Play-Doh is nearly dried to a crisp and the colors have been mixed up, when the half snapped caps on the markers leave them parched, when the crayons break in half.
When scissors practice leaves confetti on the floor to join the leftover mac and cheese the ants have already discovered. When the light saber battles lead to smacked knuckles, the wrestling matches lead to bloody noses and the bike races lead to skinned knees.
When the dinnertime fights give way to bedtime prayers of forgiveness. When the Time Out melts into a hug of apology. When the "I hate you" turns around to an "I love you." When the chaos of the day becomes the stillness of the night.
That's when you'll feel it. The satisfaction, the warmth, the triumph that being a parent brings.
(Photo by Jenn Van Wyk Photography)
And when the sun rises and the beautiful mess reappears, you smile in between the sighs, reheat that cup of coffee again and again and remind yourself that this right here, this time, this place, THESE KIDS are exactly what you were created for. Cold coffee, day-old mascara and all, you are made for this. Embrace the disorganized Legos, accept that the Play-Doh will never again be sorted by color and let them run around barefoot in the grass.
Because the time is coming all too quickly when the Play-Doh will be thrown away, the markers will be replaced by texting and the lightsaber battles long forgotten. When it hits me that my boys are suddenly too grown up to crawl into bed with me when they have a bad dream, come running when they scrape their knee or look to me to applaud their latest act of death-defying pillow jumping, I'm going to mourn the loss. It's hard to see it now, but I know it's coming.
So for now, I will remind myself to be present, to really be here, fully in it and fully engaged as much as possible. I don't want to miss it.