No one told me how the bulk of parenthood is about maintenance. There is, of course, all the wiping--of noses, of bottoms, of sticky fingers and hands, and then of every surface those sticky hands touched before you could grab a wipe. There are clothes to clean, and another load ready to be done by the time you get the first out of the dryer. Baths are required at least weekly in my house, after which the bathroom also needs a cleaning (or at least a drying). The kids make demands to get this or that and need batteries replaced and covers tucked back in. Itchy tags have to be removed from clothes that are already too small or worn and need to be replaced (but who has the time or money?) And those nails...those impossibly small nails that grow at a staggering rate, so that if you even have the time to notice them, you're clipping them every day and a half. With my two kids, that equals 40 nails. It blows my mind. And let's not think about teaching them to blow their nose so we don't have to continue the monotonous cycle of wiping and suctioning during allergy season. Which brings me to the medications...the endless vitamins, and antibiotics, and allergy remedies which don't work and require steroids, and breathing treatments and night-time vaporizers (which need to be refilled, emptied, cleaned, and refilled). And night-time snacks, and another book read, and sleep with me, and clean up time. And hope that this leaves some restorative sleeping time for all before it all begins again EARLY.
There are doctor's visits, and the dentist, and school forms to fill out, and the homework (yes, my kids are still in preschool...it starts early), and all the health forms and insurance.
But these are just the tiny things. These minutiae, which eat up so much time, underscore the bigger maintenance tasks of teaching the kids ethics, morals, values, and nurturing them in our faith and love. It's hard to see this greater work progressing as I'm reminding them for the bazillionth time to take off their shoes and clean up their messes and wash their hands. It seems impossible when I hear a wailing child in the millisecond I escaped to the bathroom and discover that one child has caused another to bleed. And yet, there are moments, mostly when they're in the company of others (i.e. not their parents) when I see evidence of manners and rules and respect. Strangers in a store were as delighted (and surprised, I imagine, as was I) to hear the sweet sound of my kids spontaneously burst into a church song I didn't realize they knew. Somehow, in the struggle, in the fight to maintain the status quo (which is hopefully balanced), something must be sinking in.
In this work, I realize that I'm in a process of maintenance as well. I'm trying to maintain my patience and positivity (or maybe attain both) while also maintaining my high standards for the kids. We're all a work in progress, thanks be to God.