I stood in my kitchen the other day, big tears smacking the screen of my iPhone, while I finally watched the last episode of “Parenthood.” After spending the weekend walking around our house with Netflix playing on the tiny screen–shoving it on top of laundry baskets or setting it on the bed while I dusted, constantly hitting pause when children barreled in to ask questions more complicated than a nod and a “Uh huh, whatever, that’s fine, have all the candy you want” could cover–I broke down at episode 7 and, unable to stand the suspense, skipped straight to the end.
The show leveled me, which I expected. You can’t spend the last decade raising a group of small humans you hope (and pray and threaten with limited electronic access) grow together, not apart, and watching your mom die without anticipating a few feelings. I cried, I let all the thoughts and emotion of it sink in, took a deep breath and then thought, “OK, now that I know what happens, I can relax and go back and watch the rest of it.”
It’s not entirely lost on me that this how I approach real life as well.
I remember when our second child, Hutton, was born, and I was in the midst of a bout of post-partum depression (side note: Yuck. And thank the good Lord for—legal—drugs.), my husband, Brad, and I had a conversation where, in an attempt to bring my anxiety level down with a “look, this is normal, life with a baby kind of sucks a lot of the time,” we came to the conclusion that we weren’t having kids because they were all that fun now; we were having them because, 20 years down the road, they’d (hopefully) be kind of cool to hang out with.
With that in mind, there’s been plenty along the way that I’ve wished I could skip past; moments when I’ve wanted to fast forward or choose a different scene; entire episodes of our life—where we’re filling baby bottles at 1:00 a.m. and stepping on Legos and putting all of the remotes on ledges toddlers can’t reach–that I’ve just wished for the love of all that is holy that we could speed through as quickly as possible. Because, yeah, we were making memories, but it was hard and stressful and uncertain and I just wanted to get to the end to see if it all turned out OK, then look back at the pictures and remember only the good stuff.
It’s an illusion. It’s standing in my kitchen and staring at my phone and crying and laughing at a fictional story and picturing our kids in it; momentarily satisfying and a little awe-inspiring, but not real life.
I’m realizing (far my slowly than my SAT score indicates I should) that we can’t get to a satisfying end if we don’t do “now” right. There is no Season 6, Episode 13 without the rollercoaster ride of Seasons 1-5. There are no relaxing Friday dinners at a restaurant with grown up kids (i.e., meals without the statement “Laying on the floor/climbing over the booth/sitting on the table isn’t appropriate, guys, come on!”) and college graduation parties and weddings and grandkids and wonderfully chaotic holidays as a “wow, five children equals a lot of next generation people” family if we don’t completely invest in today.
And there’s certainly no guarantee that just because they’ll be bigger and capable of finding clean socks and making macaroni without burning the house down that all of the hard stuff will go away. Really, if I’m being honest with myself (and if I listen to parents who’ve done it for a heck of a lot longer than I have) there’s a guarantee that it WON’T go away. More than likely, it’ll get tougher. Then, coming full circle–because everything seems to–I’ll wish I could rewind.
Today, we’ll have a story. It’ll be good and crazy and frustrating and full of minutes (or hours) I’ll want to bypass immediately. But I’ll take that deep breath and enjoy it for what it is and (try like mad) to be extremely grateful for the fact that life doesn’t have a Netflix remote.