I thought it was a good idea a few months ago. But last Monday evening, on the eve of her departure, I started to have my doubts.
Ashley was set to leave early Tuesday morning for a six-day trip to California. My job was to hold down the fort with the kids (ages 5, 3, and 1) and make sure they were all still breathing when she returned.
A wave of uncertainty swept over me late Monday, and I peppered Ash with last minute questions. I had never had the kids by myself for more than a day. I knew I was staring down the barrel of little sleep, a lot of work, and bad hairdos.
I didn’t need an alarm clock on Tuesday morning, because Owen started crying about 5am. I fell out of bed, and we were off and running. It was a rough start to the week as Owen and I were both sick, but at least our eyes were open and we were conscious. I poured a cup of coffee and prepared myself for the rest of the tribe to stir.
Shortly after, I was cooking breakfast, helping the kids get dressed, and listening to the sounds of arguing and crying. I had that first! Dad, Avery is being mean to me! Sophie, Leave me alone! Dad, I MISS MOMMA! (LOUD CRYING).
Yea, me too, I thought to myself as I realized she had only been gone for a few hours. To make matters worse, I realized I had to do Avery’s hair before sending her off to school. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had never done girlie hair before. After trying a few different styles, I had a brief moment of panic. I murmured, I have no idea how to do this, and I pulled her hair straight back, put a band on it, and called it good. After evaluating my work, I felt compassion for her knowing she had to appear in public looking so frazzled.
It was a bumpy takeoff, but at least we were airborne. As I drove Avery to school, and as the kids continued to voice their disappointment about mom being gone, the internal countdown to Ash’s return began. As of 8:20am, I realized I had to make it 124 hours and 40 minutes before she returned.
The next morning brought the same hectic pace and demanded the same set of skills: cook, referee, and stylist to name a few. As we were heading out the door, I remembered I needed to change Owen’s diaper. After pulling off his diaper, I realized that I forgot the wipes in the other room. I left him diaper-less and sprinted to grab the wipes. 6.75 seconds later when I returned, I saw the damage had already been done. There was a large wet spot on the carpet next to him, and he sat there wearing nothing but a smile.
My expectation of little sleep and a lot of work turned out to be spot on. The arguing and petty disagreements continued. The crying seemed to intensify. The meltdown and countdown continued. 86 hours and 23 minutes.
The workload certainly didn’t lighten, and the sleep continued to be scattered at best, but I started to realize a perspective shift halfway through the week. I was slowly beginning to view the week not as something to be survived or endured, but rather as a gift.
What I was missing as I set my sights on Ash’s glorious return was the glorious moments God was giving me in the here and now. I started praying and asking God to help me appreciate the opportunity before me, and I started to feel peace and joy rise in my soul. I started to notice what I didn’t previously notice. I started to laugh more. I started to enjoy this precious time with my kids.
I’m guilty at times of looking ahead in life at the expense of enjoying the current season. It’s an easy mistake to make, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who lives this way. We may think, If only I were done with school…If only I had this project completed…If only I had a different job…If only I were retired…If only I were married…If only my wife were already home from California!
As we strain our eyes to look forward, are we missing all that God has placed before us now? What if we were to push pause on whatever internal countdown we have ticking, and instead commit to enjoying the current season? This is ultimately an act of faith on multiple levels. It requires trusting that God has a sense of purpose to the current season, and that He will fulfill His purposes (change, etc.) according to His timing. It essentially leaves us with less stress and more joy.
The kids certainly weren’t lacking joy when Sunday morning arrived. They jumped out of bed with a giddiness usually reserved for Christmas morning. They had endured. They were all still breathing. They were ready to say goodbye to shabby tasting food and embarrassing hairdos and hello to their momma!
“One more hour!” Avery yelled.
“No,” I said, “More like 57 minutes.”
But who’s counting?