My husband and I sit outside on the deck after our two-year-old twins are finally in bed—not asleep, but at least confined in their cribs after a witching hour that felt like four hours. There’s a faint smell of citronella as candles flicker on the table, a bottle of Pinot Noir between us, and a glimmer overhead from the lights strung on the pergola. It’s one of those summer nights with all the trappings of romance and beauty.
But the newborn in my arms and the whines from the twins’ room keep us grounded in the reality of parenting little ones. I refill my wine glass as cries of protest against bedtime punctuate the evening. The baby begins to root around in search of food. We're exhausted.
“I can’t handle three kids,” I shamefully confess to my husband.
I love all three fiercely, and I am grateful for them beyond measure. But right now? This feels impossible. The twins know exactly when they can get away with doing all the things we’ve told them not to do. When I sit down to nurse they rush upstairs, and I hear the water of our bathtub running. If I don’t follow them, the sound of the faucet will soon be followed by the sound of slipping on the wet floor or worse. How am I supposed to get anything done with three under three? And by “get anything done,” I’m not talking about repainting the master bedroom or even emptying the dishwasher. No. I mean more like, how do I stop long enough to feed the third kid?
We wanted our kids to be close in age, although at the moment I daydream about what it would be like if we had waited until the twins were at least in preschool or even just potty-trained before trying for another. What did we get ourselves into? How do I stay consistent with discipline when my attention is so divided? Do I need to just let things go and embrace the chaos? If I can’t hold it together with the kids I have, does that close the door to any more? I analyze what we could have done differently, how I should have parented better, if I am really cut out for this at all.
He waits for my stream-of-consciousness confession to come to a close and asks, “Do you think you need to handle things better, or do you think you need to give yourself grace?”
My shoulders hunch over. I slowly lower my head to hide the tears making way down my cheeks as the question hangs in the air. His words feel like a knife at first, slicing through my skin I thought was so thick. But as that knife sinks in, I feel relief—as though that knife is actually a scalpel, digging in to remove the cancer of my own ego.
How often I tell myself I should be able to handle it all. I shouldn't break down, I shouldn't mess up, I shouldn't get tired, I shouldn't __________. I allow the pressure of perfectionism to wreak havoc on my mind and body until I collapse in a heap under its weight.
There are always things I need to handle better. There's no lack of room for improvement, especially when it comes to parenting. But I need grace. I need God’s grace to renew me daily, to help me quit the cycle of self-condemnation and stop believing the myth of perfectionism. I need grace to sink deeply into my soul and remind me that weariness is human, and asking for help doesn’t equal failure. What would it be like if grace characterized my mothering? It’s freeing, really—not in a way that makes me throw up my hands in apathy, but in a way that allows me to end the day with hope instead of defeat.
The twins have long since fallen asleep, and the baby finally followed suit. Our conversation eventually lightens to talk of schedules and books and funny things the kids did. I pour the last few drops of Pinot into our glasses.
We made it through another beautiful, messy, imperfect day.
Sangria with Oranges, Figs + Cinnamon
Yields 6-8 servings
1 (750mL) bottle red wine
1 cup brandy
1 cup pomegranate juice (preferably 100% pomegranate juice)
6 figs, sliced
2 oranges, halved then sliced
2-4 Tablespoons honey (adjust to desired sweetness)
2 sticks cinnamon
Add all ingredients except ice to a large pitcher. Stir thoroughly. (I also like to muddle the oranges and figs a bit using a wooden spoon to release more of their flavor.)
Refrigerate for several hours. Add ice, serve, and enjoy!