Today, a late afternoon nap turned early evening nap while the sun's falling rays peacefully spilled through our window basking the room with it's golden glow, all the while, two little babes slept in it's warmth. Usually, they wake and as they rub the sleep from their eyes, smiles emerge and a newfound energy runs through their veins. Today though? That was not the case. In fact, a calm and quiet house quickly became a place where there seemed to be a battle for the most tears shed, like there was an award in the distance, dangling, antagonizing, waiting for the victor to emerge, wet with tears and spent.
I could feel the promise of a beautiful evening begin to unravel. I grasped onto it with all I could, grabbing at tendrils, willing myself to hold them together, and yet, it was out of my reach.
Two sad, crying little ones wanted a space mommy's lap, alone. And though I maneuvered myself into the most uncomfortable and unnatural of positions so that each could be reassured and taken care of, it didn't seem to work, and tears followed.
"Let's take this party outside!" I exclaimed, the beautiful evening breeze greeting our faces through the open doors leading to the back yard. I just knew the fresh air would bring a brightness back to their eyes... and then, it didn't.
My next great idea in my Mama's Bag Of Tricks was dinner. Although the fact that two still-tired, whining little ones falling onto the floor asking for snacks and declarations of their rank on the hunger scale reaching dangerous levels was a pretty big clue as well. After setting them up at their pint-sized table near the pool with strawberry yogurt to curb large-sized appetites, I threw something together for dinner. And it worked! Though the triumph that only a mother knows when she's satiated the needs of her babies didn't last long, and tears again fell through dinner.
More unraveling. So far, I'd been able to keep calm during what seemed to be hours of tears and incomprehensible groaning, but the claw-like grip I'd kept on the threads of a good evening were again working their way away out of my reach. I knew I had to do something, I knew a great evening was attainable, there was a way to salvage the couple hours left before night fell upon us.
As the sun raced for the horizon, so did we. I grabbed sweaters and left shoes behind. Aliyah dropped a toy car that she'd taken from Brayden on her toe, and both of them found their way into fits of sadness again. I searched for lost keys and wiped more wet faces and runny noses as I buckled squiggly bodies into their seats. As I drove towards the bright glow of a setting sun, the angle of the light caused more tears. The low-gas light tattooed the dash while it taunted me with beeping. The pass to our closest beach was in the car that Chris had taken earlier, but thankfully, the last $4 in my wallet covered it. My hands steadied the steering wheel, though I almost turned around and waved the white flag of surrender about five times along the way.
And then it happened.
I made the left turn where tall grass opens up to white sand and lapping waves. The rhythm of the ocean kissing the shell lined coast replaced the sound of cries from the backseat and the entire cast of our eventful evening let out a collective exhale.
We ran. The kids chased a random group of ducks along the path, quacking and laughing... the change in their demeanor a far cry from just five minutes prior. An orange sky cast a hue of hope along the coastline and in the warm waters of the gulf we found what we needed to mend the unraveled cord of our evening.
We played tic-tac-toe in the sand, climbed benches, helped a few tourists by snapping their photos (One of them just "had" to show me how to use an iPhone to take a picture... "Thank you Mr. Tourist, I had no idea.")... and ran to let the salty waves wrap us in their warm embrace, clothed and all.
Somewhere, deep down, I knew this is what we needed. It had been too long since we came to this place and let go, and though there were many opportunities to give up and call it a night, to surrender to the easy way out, even though it meant an evening of struggles and grumpy kids, we pushed on. I pushed my kids on because I knew there was something better for them than tears.
I think that's the beautiful part of parenting... the artful part. When you know there can be a better outcome, but it takes some work getting there. There might be some creative planning along the way, some quick decisions and last minute changes, but I think the effort makes the end result all the more meaningful.
"What day is today?" Aliyah asked as the sun began to sink behind the rocky ledge at the end of the island we were frolicking on. "Wait... Wednesday." She answered her own question and then without a beat, followed up with, "Can we come next Wednesday and play in the warm water too? Because this was THE BEST WEDNESDAY EVER."
Sometimes the best memories are born in the midst of trials. The best days ever are made out of the determination to change a day of tears and sorrow. The biggest rewards come at the end of the line when the white flag would have been an easier choice, many times over.
And, now that my computer has literally turned itself off THREE times during the writing of this post, I think it's time that I, finally, call it a night... while smiling with a happy heart.
Goodnight, friends, from the mended end of an almost-unraveled evening. Definitely one to remember.