So, as promised, I'm going to share part of my journey towards joy that has taken place over the last few years. What I've found is not really revolutionary, but rather those sorts of things you tend to forget, and need reminding of.
I realized I had lost my joy one January morning, as I was towing my boys to the library in a toboggan. Although this may seem like a simple enough circumstance, let me give you a larger picture of the scene. Andrew was three and a half, and Aaron was one year old. It was a mild January day, and I didn't have the car, but I wanted to go to story time at the library and get out of the house on the warmest day we had had in weeks. As I set Andrew down in the sled, he got excited and ready for the journey. He was perfectly happy, until I set his brother down in front of him. As soon as I set Aaron down, Andrew decided that he didn't want to sit and hold his brother. He wanted the sled all to himself. So he started to scream. I ignored him and started walking. We got up the road to an intersection and I stopped. I looked back to see that Aaron had stretched himself out, knocking both himself and Andrew over in the sled. Andrew was laying, stiff as a board, screaming. Being an agile one year old, Aaron takes advantage of our lack of movement to roll himself out of the sled and almost onto the road.
I prop the plastic grocery bag of books behind Andrew, hoping to support his back, sit him up in the sled, sit Aaron up in front of him, look both ways and cross the street. As I start down a less sheltered street I realize that although my thermometer says -10, it is more like -18 with the windchill. I think to myself, "These children live in Saskatchewan. They must learn to handle the cold." and keep walking.
I hear a "thump", and the screaming starts again. I turn around to see that, like dominos, Aaron has pushed Andrew over, who has pushed the bag of books out of the sled. The books are strewn about on the snowy ground. I stop to pick them up, and Aaron rolls out of the sled. I sit on the snow, put Aaron on my lap, and start picking up the library books.
I sit Andrew up in the sled, put the library books in front of him this time, and lean Aaron against the library books. Andrew complains the books are too heavy, and starts screaming. Aaron, fortunately, is happy and sits up looking around. It starts snowing. Not those soft, fluffy Christmas movie snowflakes, but the little, sharp ice crystals that are blown into your face by the cold wind. I stop to adjust everyone's scarves to cover their faces. Aaron flips himself out of the sled. Andrew kicks the library books out of the sled . . . and so it goes. All the way to the library. And all the way home.
By the time we are leaving the library, I am furious. I am screaming back at my three year old. I feel like shaking my one year old as I put him in the sled for the ten thousandth time. Tears are freezing on my red, windblown cheeks. I wonder why other parents can just pile their children into a sled, throw all the books on top of them and hike 10 miles through a blizzard and I can't even make it to the library and back.
Thinking back now, I wonder why I didn't just laugh to myself, realize it was a ridiculous situation, and turn around when I was a block from home. Why was it so important to get my kids into the fresh air and off to the library. Why did I feel like it was critical to their future well being to be able to ride together in a sled? What made it such an important test of my motherhood?
I didn't used to be like that. I have always been a fun loving, adventure seeking person. I chose my major in university because it was my passion (English Lit) and my minor because it sounded fun and had less reading than History (Theatre). When I was 20ish years old, my friend Grace and I took turns pushing each other, in a shopping cart, through all the drive thrus in town, just to see if they would serve us. I had a girl at work once tell me, "You don't drink because you don't need to get drunk, Jill. You don't have any inhibitions." I have always been known for my good nature and keen sense of the absurdity in life. And although I also have a serious side, it has never been a facade. I have always enjoyed finding the joke in the midst of the most serious situation, and savoring every moment for all it is worth.
But somehow, when I needed those traits the most, they seemed to have abandoned me. Motherhood had sucked all the joy, wonder and fun out of my soul. In the midst of a time when most people rediscover the wonders of childhood joy, I was grumpy, tired and fed up.