As I look back on it, yesterday had a number of good things going on. While the baby had been up in the night, I was then able to sleep until about 7:30 a.m. I waited for the bus with the boys in the unseasonably warm morning. I brought my daughter to a playdate (which she was very excited about), then turned in the articles that needed to get done before the holidays. I finished wrapping presents, and then after lunch took my daughter downtown for a matinee performance of the Nutcracker. I always like watching ballets. She was wiggly, but I brought her Kindle for pre-performance and intermission, and I had some cheese that I was handing her to keep her motivated during some of the slower moments (this is the wisdom born of experience). We made it through. After, she walked nicely with me through the festive streets of Philly to meet Daddy at the bank, where we had to sign some forms. She drove home with him, and so I made the commute home in a nice silence with the windows open. We had family dinner. My daughter and I made banana bread while the 8-year-old and my husband went back downtown for the evening Nutcracker performance. I read some good Christmas stories. I even got to read the holiday issue of The Economist for about half an hour before falling asleep.
Of course, there were also stressful times. There were touch and go moments during the Nutcracker when my daughter wanted to leave. I know that 4 is a bit young for a 2-hour stage production. I knew there might be some restless segments. Yet it still made me anxious since I wanted to see the show, and I got her a ticket because I thought she’d like it. She both did and she didn’t. (Age 4 features much paradox). In the evening, the 6-year-old had burned through his designated “app time” on his Kindle, and was howling to have more. Kids whining for screen time just sets me on edge. I almost lost it when I was bathing the baby and the 6-year-old and 4-year-old started hitting each other downstairs and screaming for me, and I couldn’t tell if it was an actual injury or just whining, and so I had to get the baby out of the tub to go downstairs, where they turned out to be fine, if at each other’s throats. And the worst part of the day: I could not get the baby down. I think if I’d known he wouldn’t go down until 10:30 p.m. I would have made the most of it, but the fact that I was trying on and off since 8 was just maddening. Two and a half hours of my life basically gone trying to convince someone to sleep.
I find that it takes real work to see the good moments for what they are without letting the negative moments overtake them. It’s natural to think that happiness should be effortless, but it isn’t, at least for certain stages of life. It takes work to plan in fun things, and then do them and be present while they’re happening and not let the inevitable stressful moments destroy the rest. This is the discipline of joy: to know that the good life is not always the easy life. It is a constant process of managing expectations, and celebrating what you can. The baby was very cute as he toddled around the house. He was serene and beautiful sleeping in my arms when the final bottle knocked him out.