On the Inside Looking In

Our family has three kids under the age of 5 and I am currently 26 weeks pregnant with #4. Our kids are ages 5, 2, and 11 months. So we get quite the looks when we are out in public. And yes, I have received the oh-so-well-intended question, “You do know how that happens, don’t you?” as eyes travel down to my expanding belly. It takes all I have not to roll my eyes…I have, with the proper people of course, smartly and bluntly replied, “Yes, sex!” and enjoy the stammer that typically follows (I am married, and I enjoy having sex with my husband. This surprises you??).

I digress. We get the looks. We get the comments. We take our kids out in public. And (gasp) we take them out to eat. At a restaurant. Did I mention it was in public? And no, we do not give our children ipads or phones or videos to “entertain” them while we wait for dinner. We endure their company as best we can without these “distractions”. So as you can imagine, it can become a bit hectic at our table (advice: always request a booth when you have littles with you!).

We hadn’t gone out to eat with them in quite awhile, and Sunday my husband and I were both exhausted and had to get out of the house. So we took them to a buffet, which is cheaper for us now that we have 3 kids who eat like none other (yes, even the 11 month old)! And throughout the dinner my husband and I experienced the following:

  1. Since it’s a buffet, we had to take turns going up with a child to get their food.
  2. We discover that one of our cups had a crack in it and was leaking down the table into our 11 month old who had ended up swishing his hands back and forth in his now water-logged noodles.
  3. After using 5+ napkins to clean that up, our 2 year old daughter ends up poking her straw through the bottom of her Styrofoam cup, which then spills down her front.
  4. As I’m cleaning up more water, she starts throwing a hissy fit because I’m having her sit back in her booster since the bench is now completely wet.
  5. Getting ready to leave, we let our 11 month old down on the floor to walk (because he loves walking after being forced to sit still for 30 minutes) and he decides he doesn’t want to leave and walks in between empty table chairs.

You get the picture. Amidst all this, the kids are devouring their food, they get to enjoy three rounds of the restaurants “Birthday song”, and are just active the way young children are.

Towards the end of the meal, my eyes fall on the lone man eating his dinner relatively close to us. I subtly watch him for a bit and like any mother who hasn’t eaten an uninterrupted meal in Lord knows how long, I feel that twinge of longing. “How nice must it be to eat in silence, in peace!” I think. No kids to keep from peering into the next table over, or a baby from crying every time Mommy or Daddy leaves the table. And then as he gets up and leaves, I think about his probable trip home and an evening of stillness.

It’s here that I stop and think of the “alternative”. And I think, what if he looks at our table and feels that twinge of longing? Longing for activity and noise, all in the form of young kids? How often does that happen, where we look outwards at something and imagine it to be “better” than what we are living at the moment?

So I looked inward, from an outside perspective at our crazy messy table. And I couldn’t help but smile and feel so incredibly blessed in that moment. These three little beings were all I could’ve ever hoped for and, as I placed a hand on my moving stomach, the next one was bound to be just as full of personality and character as his/her siblings. Even though the exhaustion of parenthood and overwhelming sense of responsibility can often cloud our sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, it just takes one ray of sunshine in the form of a giggle, a smile, a hug, or holding a little hand that makes everything clear again. It’s all about how you choose to see something with yours eyes. An ordinary view is just that until you acknowledge or find the beauty in the scene around you.

This inner perspective should never be lost. It can often be tantalizing to look outside of our family home and/or circle and imagine that someone else’s life is easier and more enjoyable than ours. But you will miss out on those sunshine rays, I promise you. It’s not an easy path, but really no one’s is. Find your joy even in the chaos and messiness of a family dinner out!

Where do you struggle to find inner perspective?