Embracing the Ordinary

photo-135  This is what six years old looks like…

I sit by the edge of the bathtub, resting my chin on my arm as I watch them melt into complete relaxation following a day of play and curiosity.

Night after night we work our way through the same routine.

While Sweet Girl sings softly to herself, my Sweet Boy busies himself with his car wash.  Even as night falls, there is still work to do.

Steam rises from the warm water, creating the perfect place to draw with nothing but a fingertip.

Look, Mommy, I can draw a flower.  AND…I wrote my name.

She loves to draw, this sweet girl of mine.  Anytime.  Anywhere.

Look at that, Sweet Girl.  Art is everywhere.

She smiles for a moment as she meets my gaze, then quickly gets back to work.

You didn’t wash my hair, Mommy.  Did you forget?

I reach out to graze her cheek, lost in thoughts of gratitude and heartache.

No, Sweet Girl, I didn’t forget.  I just wanted to give you time to play.

No need to rush.  Not now.  Not ever.  Why was there ever a need to rush?

I’m ready to get out now, Mommy.

My sweet boy breaks my trance with thoughts of the ordinary.  He wants his routine.  He wants his schedule.  He wants pajamas, playtime, and a story.

And so we get back to our routine…

We make our way to my bed.  Bedtime nears, but there is still milk, Curious George, and a story or two left in our day.

Sweet Girl snuggles into me, the weight of entwined legs pushing her toward final relaxation, as I slowly comb her beautiful chestnut hair.  I fight back tears as I kiss her for each tangle.

I get to comb her hair tonight, I think to myself as the sound of their giggles brings me back to the present.

I get to snuggle them up, read their favorite Christmas books, and help them sink into an innocent slumber. 

Wrapped in warmth and love and heartache we read just a little bit extra.

And then we make our way to their bedrooms.

I rock my sweet boy and whisper his I love yous, holding him just a little too tight.  He relaxes into my arms and heaves the sigh of a day well lived.

Nothing in this world will ever be more important to me than you and Sweet Girl.  Remember that always, sweet baby boy.  You are my everything.

I know, Mommy.  I love you ten million times too.

With that, he snuggles into his bed before blowing me one last kiss.

Hold onto that kiss, Mommy.

My heart swells and hurts and threatens to burst.

I get to put my baby to bed…

Standing in the doorway, I watch my sweet girl for a moment or two as she colors with intensity on her bed.

I don’t worry when I color.  It relaxes me.

Barely six years old, and she already knows how to cope.

Hey Sweet Girl, it’s time. 

I know, Mommy.  Just one more thing; ok?

No need to rush.  Not now.  Not ever.  Why was there ever a need to rush?

I dim the lights, lie beside her bed, reach up for her hand, and tell her a relaxing story.  Together we fall off into a world of dreams.

I sit and watch her breathe just a little bit more before quietly making my way to the hallway.

I get to put my big girl to bed…

I get to hold her hand…

My heart races as I close the door, leaving it open just a crack.

In a fog, I find my way back to my room and collapse on my bed as the sobs finally escape.

I cry for the parents, who have empty beds and broken hearts.

I cry for the siblings, who lost a best friend.

I cry for the elves that won’t be found and the candles that won’t be lit.

I cry for the hearts that will never be healed.

And I cry for the little faces that lived out their final moments in fear…

I get to put my babies to bed.  I get to hold them tight.  I get to bathe them, put them in pajamas, comb their hair, and read their stories.  I get to do the ordinary.

With hiccups and sobs and prayers and anger I beg for a different outcome.  I cry out to start the day again and bring those families back together.

Hours later, as I finally accept defeat, I allow myself to move the elf.  With hands shaking and tears pouring from my exhausted eyes, I go about doing the ordinary.

In the morning, the kids will climb into our bed, chitchat with us as we wake, and then race off to find Elfie.  They will inhale pumpkin waffles, engage us in play, and ask to read 17 stories.

And my husband and I will link hands, memorize these moments, and simply embrace the ordinary.

Because we can.  And…because we should.

Sending love and prayers and tears and heartache to Connecticut.  May you one day find some version of ordinary again.

About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)