Last August, for the first time ever, all four of us took a family bike ride. We’d recently moved a mile from the ocean, and my husband and I agreed that with so many bike paths nearby we had to take advantage of our accessibility to the water. I found a toddler seat at our friend’s garage sale and borrowed a tandem seat attachment for our four-year old. It took some major tinkering on my husband’s end to get everything set up, but eventually we were ready.
I won’t lie—our maiden voyage was sloooooow and involved fearful tears from our oldest child—but by the second outing we not only had fun, we couldn’t wait to do it again. Breeze in our hair, laughter in the air, and a stop at the smoothie shop made for a carefree afternoon without a single tantrum. When we rolled home later that day, my husband and I couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. Finally, finally, we’d found an activity all of us could enjoy together.
Before children, I didn’t realize that part of the difficulty in the little years can be finding the fun amidst the work.
Family trips? More like family torture. Every time we traveled it felt like someone was carsick, coughing through the night, and/or punishing an entire airplane with his or her crying. We’d come home from a trip and say to each other, “I’m just not sure that was worth it.”
Weekends didn’t feel like weekends. To get any rest required one parent “on-duty” while the other spent time alone reading or napping. To get anything done meant one parent entertaining while the other one sprayed for ants, mowed the lawn, and folded laundry. Finding an activity that all of us could really enjoy together seemed even more impossible when the only thing our young kids wanted to do was make a train track and then destroy it.
While we love our children, and love being parents, my husband and I were always in survival mode. Sure, there were plenty of sweet bedtime prayers and backyard giggles, but the tears and tantrums existed in equal (and sometimes greater) amounts. Both of us had always wanted three children, but after five years in the parenting game we couldn’t imagine adding another demanding creature to our already chaotic mix of personalities.
But then, that little bike ride? It’s like we saw a light at the end of the tunnel; a glimpse at the years to come when our children might share some of our interests, when they might cry less and entertain themselves more, when we might take a fun family vacation rather an exhausting family trip. After a particularly hard second child, that bike ride felt like reaching a summit we’d been climbing for over two years. It was our first glimpse at life beyond the little years. And, oddly enough, it’s also what helped me realize that we were ready for another baby.
In a few weeks we’re expecting a third child, and similar to our first pregnancy, we analyzed the idea for a long time before making the decision to jump. Because beyond the family bike rides, our life feels settled in some other ways. My kids are finally playing together (sometimes quietly) for an hour at a time! They will watch a TV show while I make a real, non-frozen dinner, no baby on my hip crying for milk. There is not a single diaper in our house, and everyone (mostly) sleeps through the night. I still don’t use the bathroom in privacy, and I still get woken up very early, and I still feel the very real demands of two children under the age of five, but our life also feels, dare I say, manageable?
There is absolutely nothing rational about being pregnant again. But, there’s also nothing rational about jumping out of an airplane. And here I am again, hanging out of the plane; still terrified by the free-fall but also well aware of the thrill.
When it comes down to it, we are not having another baby because babies are easy. Mostly there is a nagging on my soul that cannot, will not, has not, gone away. I believe God placed it there—more powerful than my own logic and planning—and more commanding than a little birth control pill. This longing is irrational and scary, and will certainly require more than a hefty parachute to survive.
And so I keep repeating that phrase to myself—the one that’s on t-shirts and canvas prints: If there’s room in your heart, there’s room in your hands. And there is plenty of room in my heart. I’ve had a space for years and years and years, possibly since I was a little girl and grew up with my own brother and a sister. Always someone to play with. Always someone to love. I cling to the idea that if God put the longing on our hearts then He will also provide the wisdom and strength to be a mama to three needy bodies and souls.
So in those moments when I feel a little crazy…the moments when one of the kids is hanging off the grocery cart crying and the checker gazes at my growing bump with concern, I will remember that the view from the top is always a little daunting. I will remember that my God is bigger than my fears. And I will also remember that bike ride last summer—the one that showed me there is life beyond the chaotic routines of our days.
There are more sleepless nights to come, but soon enough the five of us will be back on the trail again.