The other day, walking back to my van after the sad goodbyes at daycare, I flashed my distraught boys the "I love you" sign as I do each morning before I leave. I blew them kisses and said, "I love you!" for the 57th time that morning and got ready to pull away.
My twins had their sweet faces pressed against the glass with tears streaming down their cheeks and they flashed the sign back to me. In between sad snivels and breathless blubbers, they mouthed, "I love you too" through the glass.
And just as it does every morning, my heart broke. No matter how chaotic and painful the morning was, that moment is always a tough one.
This particular morning, another mom was walking her son in as she watched this sad exchange between me and my boys. She gave me that empathetic smile every parent knows. The one that says, "I feel your pain. Me too." She looked at my sons in the window who resembled dejected puppies and then back at me and she said, "It's so hard, isn't it?"
And that was the moment.
The moment I hope to create through many of the words I say in my posts. The moment I think we all need at least once a day from one another. The moment where you know that someone else gets it and understands that what we are doing, no matter what it is, is hard.
Because she was right.
It's so hard, isn't it!
Not just the sad goodbyes at daycare, but life. Life is just hard sometimes. Actually, it's hard all the time. Sometimes we are a little stronger so it feels less difficult; but it's always hard.
It's hard for all of us.
I looked at my sons this morning just before I walked out the door, and just as I do every morning, I saw bravery.
Each day the routine looks the same. I bring Luke to his classroom and kiss him goodbye. Then I walk Connor and Ethan to their room. I crouch down and hug them both so tight - like it's the last hug they'll ever get. I look into their eyes and I say, "I love you so much! Have a great day. I'll see you in just a little while. I love you." Then I kiss their sweet cheeks, squeeze them again and tell them to go over to the window so I can tell them "I love you" again with our sign.
They stiffen up and take some breaths. Sometimes they both dissolve into tears. But lately, they seem to try to hold it together better just before I leave.
They walk toward the window and I walk away. They turn their heads back to watch me as I wave and blow more kisses just before opening the door. Their lower lips quiver and they wave the bravest waves I've ever seen.
And then, even though they're falling apart, they turn to the window to give me the "I love you" sign before I leave.
Lately, when I look at them just before pulling away I think, "They are so brave."
Now it may not look like they're being all that brave as they melt into puddles of tears on the floor. In the beginning, when they screamed like a tiger was running toward them every day, "brave" probably wasn't the word most people would have chosen for that display.
But when I look at them and realize what it is that's happening inside of them and how they're handling themselves now, I see brave. And I realize they are doing the exact same thing at age 3 that we all have to do throughout our whole lives.
We have to do things we don't want to do. We have to do things we think we can't do. We have to stand there facing all our greatest fears, and we have to do it anyway.
And it's so hard, isn't it?
Life isn't easy.
From the moment we take our first breath until we take our very last, we are fighting hard battles.
As we grow and mature, we gain perspective. We realize some of the things we thought were so hard really weren't so bad after all.
Sometimes we look back and realize it was every bit as hard as we thought it was and we're just grateful we made it out alive.
Some things never get easy.
But whether you are 3, 30 or 93, sometimes all you need is someone else to look at you and say, "It's so hard, isn't it?"
Someone to pause with you. Someone to see you. Someone to acknowledge your effort, your pain, your struggle and say, "Me too."
We're all fighting hard battles.
Our 3 year olds are fighting battles every day that to them, feel all encompassing; just as our adult battles feel all encompassing to us.
Sometimes we forget to see each other because we're so focused on our own stuff. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge our children's battles because we are too busy fighting our own. Sometimes, we don't even recognize our own stuff because we are too consumed by everything else.
So just take a deep breath. Look around. Make eye contact with each other.
Life is happening for all of us. And it's so hard, isn't it?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Three Boys and a Mom. It has been republished here with permission.