Last Monday was a hard day in the Topping household. Eggs didn’t let us go to sleep until almost midnight on Sunday night and was up at 4:30 am the next morning. Monkey got up at 5:00 am, exactly as I was putting Eggs back down to bed. We got Monkey to sleep at 5:30 am, but Eggs was up at 6:00. And that’s how my day began.
When you’ve only had a few hours of sleep and you have to be responsible for two other lives, the world looks like an awful place. Even though the sun was out, even though we broke temperature records that day, even though the trees are starting to show a little green when you look at them out of the corners of your eyes, I was miserable.
So I sent a message to a friend of mine that comes and watches the boys once a week so that I can go be an adult for a couple of hours. A few hours later, she was hanging out with the boys while I passed out in bed. When I woke up, we went for lunch and then for a walk in the beautiful sunshine. Before I took her home, she offered to help me get some groceries.
The day would have been a very different one had she not been here.
I’d have been tired all day with zero patience for either child. Monkey would have been antsy to go outside, but because we have no yard (yet), we would stay indoors. I wouldn’t have had the energy to take them anywhere. I’d probably have missed lunch because there wasn’t a lot to eat in the house, which would have made me even grouchier. My bad attitude would soon affect the boys and we would have a pity party before the afternoon was out. By the time Brian would have returned home, the boys would be miserable, I’d be miserable, and no one would have felt love.
But that wasn’t the case.
Before I had kids, I didn’t understand the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” I thought it had something to do with kids needing to learn social skills or something to do with public schooling or something parents said before finding babysitters for their little ones. I have learned now that, while those things are important, they are not what it means.
Children are exhausting in every conceivable meaning of the word. After having kids, your sleep suffers, apparently forever. But not only that. You spend your days pouring every ounce of love, patience, and kindness into them. You try to teach them everything you know and protect them, mostly from themselves. And usually, this is the first time where you do this and you don’t get the same in return. Children can’t reciprocate this kind of love for many, many years to come. So it feels like you’re a bucket that is quickly emptied each day.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s rewarding, but you’re investing in the long term. The short term rewards are the small moments, like when Monkey kisses Eggs when Eggs is crying. When you get to see that the effort you put in is making a difference, you finally feel that reward. But then Monkey smacks Eggs in the face and we are back to reality.
But this why you have a community. You get the children at their best and at their worst. They get you for the same. And when your bucket is empty, we surround ourselves with people that help us fill it. These people offer to watch the kids, bring us snacks, or just send a message to see how we’re doing and don’t feel bad if we are too overwhelmed to reply. This community can be made of up unexpected people. Sometimes family, sometimes friends, sometimes coworkers or churchmates or neighbours.
It’s hard to find community sometimes. When we moved here, I realized that I didn’t know as many people as I thought. Once Eggs was born, I thought I was going to be so isolated. But there were SO many people at the baby shower. Then we got so much food and support from church. People were connecting with me so much more than I expected and I found my community.
You know what? People want to help. I’m serious. People see us moms with hair half-straightened, children missing shoes, and a huge barf stain on our fronts and think, “I bet they could use a meal or a break or a word of encouragement.” And if you make sure to repay their kindness with your own, then you’re doing just fine.
So to my community, thank you. Thank you for listening when I’m frustrated, for bringing us food when getting to the grocery store seems just as stressful as flying on a plane, for taking my kids so that I can take a break, for seeing my need for help and deciding to take the time to fill my bucket. Thank you.
An especially big thank you to my dear friend who rescued me that Monday (you know who you are) and have now left to better another community in the USA. Lots of love.