Life as a young, busy family can be downright tough sometimes.
Here’s a scenario that any couple with small children can probably relate to…and I know we can because it’s a true (and completely typical) story for us from just last weekend.
Bethany and I are standing at the start of Mass at our church, confident that the kids are finally under control.
It’s been a long Sunday filled with lots of playing, cooking, feeding, driving, disciplining, doctoring, explaining, reading, loving, yelling, celebrating, stressing, enjoying and being…together as a family. We’re certainly ready for some spiritual renewal.
The first five minutes have been a welcome respite, as the kids were distracted by the church musicians’ practice and were (kinda) quiet.
Then, just as Mass gets underway, comes the shrill, whiney “BRADENNNNN” from the mouth of our 4-year-old daughter Kendall to pierce the relative silence.
Braden has decided at this point in his life that he MUST have a green crayon. No, unlike his little sister, he is not coloring. But that green crayon is his or at least he NEEDS it right now. Right now.
This isn’t our first rodeo, so Braden and Kendall are quickly separated to stand on either side of us.
Kendall gets her crayon back, Braden makes a (loud) appeal for keeping it, while our priest prays and appears to do a good job of ignoring that rude family in the third pew. Braden relinquishes and is convinced through stern, not-so-quiet whispers from Mommy that this would be an excellent time to be quiet, turn around and respect God by paying attention.
For at least 5 seconds, calm ensued as if by Divine Intervention. It was heavenly.
Then it was 11-month-old Avery’s turn. She’s got an ear infection, so she rightfully requires some extra love and attention.
And she’s had plenty of it since I’ve been holding her the entire time with one arm, while policing the previous fight with the other.
Well, apparently being held, pulling my hair, periodically screeching like a rabid monkey, slobbering on me, arching her back away from me so as to maximize stress on my lower back, and kicking me in such a way as to discourage any future siblings isn’t enough.
It’s time to cry!
This is one of those resonating, inconsolable cries that everyone notices. It even earns a look from our priest, and he’s pretty numb to such interruptions.
It’s at this time that the beads of sweat start to form on my forehead and my ears feel like they’re on fire as I’m sure the 300 people behind me are all staring at me wondering why I’m such a lousy father.
This is also the time that Braden decides it would be a swell idea to crawl under the pew, kicking the back of my knees in the process and nearly causing me to tumble.
As she sees my temper flaring, Bethany motions for the hand-off.
I give her screaming Avery so she can bail to the church foyer and end that madness. Meanwhile, I wipe my forehead and look down…to see Braden waving a green crayon in Kendall’s face. Her breath is held tight, mouth turned down and I can practically see the steam coming from her ears.
She’s gonna blow!
And so it goes for the next 50 minutes, off and on, between moments of true joy like genuine hugs and kisses between all of our family members during the Sign of Peace to many more moments of stress, frustration and a bit of physical pain.
It’s just another Sunday afternoon for the Riechmann family. 🙂
After Mass is over and we’re gathering up our things, a sweet older lady makes the point of walking up to Bethany and telling her how cute our kids are.
Naturally, it’s hard to accept such kind words at a time when you’re not sure if your children are possessed by demons, but a polite smile and a “thank you” was reciprocated.
But this lady had a bit of wisdom to share. She smiled very knowingly and said, “Don’t worry, honey. It’s tough with small children. But it gets easier.”
This is just a 10-minute snippet of our life as the parents of three small children. Am I complaining? A little.
But would I change it for anything in the world? Not a chance.
Small children are tough to raise, especially when you try so hard to be consistent and firm in your boundaries. It requires a LOT of energy, patience and encouragement, even when it comes from strangers.
If you’re facing similar stress in your family life, be sure to get a healthy dose of regular date nights away from the kids, time alone with individual children so you can bond more directly, and give your spouse some time to be alone and just focus on taking care of their body.
That’s what we do as much as possible, and it makes all the difference.
We still have lots of struggles, but at the end of the day we are so incredibly thankful for the blessings of our crazy little children, screams and groin kicks and all.
So, for you slightly older families out there, does it really get any easier?
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.