A few years ago, in a mom-galaxy that seems so far away, I found myself juggling popcorn, drinks, and a six-year-old through an obstacle of legs to reach the exit doors of a packed theater. It was shortly after opening credits, but clearly time for us to leave. My six-year-old, Aria, having seen a portion of the film a week prior, had dropped too many spoilers (in her “outdoor” voice) for us to stay among all the devoted Star Wars fans.
So, we walked around in the cool night air and talked as we munched on warm popcorn. I wasn’t able to watch the film until it came onto DVD a year later, but the time I spent with my daughter that evening was worth the wait. That night, as we talked, I was overwhelmed with the reality of how big she had grown, while, at the same time, I was confronted with how little she truly was still. Growth can feel like an optical illusion when you have multiple children. Sometimes, it's not until you observe your children apart from one another that the reality of their age solidifies itself into your mind.
As mothers, we talk about wanting to "freeze" time. Yet, in moments of stress, we convince ourselves that it will be easier when they are older. It will be easier when the baby starts walking. It will be easier when they are all out of diapers. It will be easier when they are all in school. These thoughts become a “light” at the end of a tunnel when we feel worn down by the journey of motherhood.
Aria, my youngest at the time, had started school that year. It was a “light year” for me. As I watched her walk around that evening I began to think about that light. The light at the end of the tunnel, the light that twinkled at me with every milestone, was the real optical illusion in my life.
Spoiler alert, there is no tunnel of light. Motherhood does not get easier. It gets different. Diaper duty becomes car pool duty. Rocking, patting, and peak-a-booing becomes personal assisting, chauffeuring, and calendar mastering. I haven't experienced my nest being empty, but it doesn't sound easy. I haven’t experienced my children becoming adults who will be able to make life choices that might worry me, but it doesn't sound easy. I can't imagine being the mother of a child who serves our country or puts themself in harms way for the greater good. I imagine it’s not easier than diapers or tantrums.
The truth is, the light is not in some tunnel beckoning to us. The light is all around us. It's there for us to soak in, sometimes found in late night stories and snuggles. Other times, we find the light in the moment we put down the laundry and join in the fort building. The light is in those moments we seize for the taking, whether it is a long bath alone with a book after a hard day or all the little sweet moments between the hard ones. Yesterday, my light was found when my eldest begged me for just one more song, one more skate around the roller ring with him. A few weeks shy of being the mother a sixth grader, I basked in the light before me. The disco ball, his playful smile, and my sore ankles all came together for a glorious dance in the light. The light is here and now, if you wait for it at the end of some tunnel, you might realize you've missed it altogether…because the light, much like the force, is with us.