At 6:30 a.m., I hear a cough and a cry. I race to the next room. It's Kyle. Luckily, it's just a cough, and no other smelly liquids were involved, and he asks to watch TV. I lay back down in bed exhausted for 10 more minutes until the alarm goes off. Then I'm racing again.
Get the girl up. Pull out some clothes, encourage her to get dressed quickly like 15 times.
Pack a lunch.
Go back into her room to remind her that she is supposed to get her pants on too. Meanwhile, I've done 10 other things.
It's 30 minutes of racing in the morning. Reminding. Coaching. Begging. Hurry up! is said more than once.
She is off to school successfully. I scarf down some breakfast, and then, the baby is up and my race begins again just seconds later. Get him dressed. Feed him. Meanwhile, encourage Kyle that going to school today would be more fun than going to the grocery store with me. He agrees.
We race to get him ready. Race to get to his school on time.
We drive from his preschool to the park. I don't want to exercise, but I'm motivated to lose some freaking weight, so I do it. To my surprise I actually get some energy to jog a little. I race (literally this time) around the park to hurry up my workout so I can make it to the grocery store.
Time is of the essence. I hate grocery shopping, so my ultimate goal is to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. Without forgetting something (which never happens. I ALWAYS forget something).
I juggle keeping the baby entertained, letting him play with my list and a pen, marking on himself happily, while I concentrate on the task at hand. Granola bars for Avery's class. We need bread. Oh crap. We're out of milk again already.
Finally, I realize I am done. I race to the line with my grocery cart full. Ready to get out of there as quick as possible. I am prioritizing in my head. Do I have time to sit down for a second and eat a snack? I need to shower. Can I put groceries away and do that? Crap. The kitchen needs to be cleaned from breakfast.
As I look up from unloading my cart, a little old lady probably in her 80s pulls in behind me with four things. I glance up. The cashier has rung up two items. "Can you let her go first?" I ask. "Not since I've already started ringing things up." The old lady disappears to another line. I feel bad for a second and then the cashier says in a whisper, "It's OK. She comes in here multiple times in a day. She just needs something to do. She's not in a hurry. Sometimes she just comes in and stands around." I laugh and say quietly, "That sounds like my worst nightmare!" referring to the act of going to the grocery store multiple times a day.
As soon as I said it, it felt selfish. Or naive. Or something. I can't quite put my finger on it. But, I feel bad.
One day, I will get old too. One day, my shopping cart won't be overflowing with fruit snacks, diapers, and apple juice, and all the vegetables for my latest diet.
One day, it might just be me. I won't have a to-do list. I won't need to prioritize every second of my time.
One day, I might stop racing. I think about that for a minute as I load my full car, and head home. Then, I hit my back door and I start racing again. Unload groceries, eat a snack, keep baby entertained somehow (with the TV) while I shower. Clean up kitchen. Vacuum. What can I make the kids for lunch? The thoughts running through my head are endless.
My husband calls and I'm out of breath. "I'm racing to put the groceries away real quick so I have time to have a shower before I have to go pick up Kyle." We hang up quickly, and my race continues.
I frequently think to myself, "If only there was more time! How am I possibly expected to get this all done?"
In my head, the race never ends.
But, it will someday. It will end. And, I will long for the days of racing again.
I'm not an athlete or a runner. But, I know what it feels like to race. I imagine running a long race like a marathon feels the same. Like it's never going to end. But, when it does, there is a release. A feeling of accomplishment. A feeling of joy. That you did something impossible. You did something you thought you could never do.
The race of raising these little people is the same. Sometimes it feels like the next milestone will never come. But it does. And it goes, and you miss it. The race seems long sometimes. Some days, it seems impossible. But, as parents, we are all doing it. We do things we never thought we would be able to do.
Maybe we don't get the best time. There will always be the person that seems to run the race faster, or better than us. But we are participating. We are living each day to our best ability. We are running the race the best way we know how.
And when we cross that finish line, and running is no longer necessary, maybe we will stand in a grocery line with nowhere to go later. No lists in our head. No little hand to hold as we walk into a busy parking lot. Just like I imagine some people run a marathon and think, "I've done it. I never have to do that again." We won't feel that way about this race we call parenthood. We aren't going to remember the brutal, unhappy times. We are going to remember instead, the joy we felt in the journey. We will wish we could run the race again.
I have to believe that in order to keep on running.