But as I leave their room, I can still hear Allie screaming and banging on the door. Kate is pleading with her. Now she's just left. Tonight it's Allie's turn for a nighttime tantrum. Tomorrow it will be Andie's.
At times like these, I really have to wonder. I have to wonder why being a parent is the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Because, at times like these, it's not.
The girls' third birthday marks one of the harder years in my life, and the only ones that were tougher than their first and second year. The sacrifices I've made are numerous, uncompromising and, at times, unnatural. I have sacrificed many of the fun, relaxing things I used to enjoy. I have sacrificed most of my free time. I have sacrificed part of my sanity. All so I can replace all with tantrums, ear-splitting cries and moments that are so stressful that I don't even recognize myself. This is my life. This is every day.
And when I try to explain what it's like, usually to my friends who have older children, I get "just wait until they're teenagers." Which tells me they have no idea what I'm going through and probably don't care. All parents think they're stressed. All parents think they've got it the worst. All parents just seem to want to get through the stage they're in so things can get better.
I'm not sure they ever do.
And that is why I am happy for those three years. I admit that I really question that happiness. I wonder if I"m just telling myself that. I have done a lot soul-searching on my long runs. And I always reach the same conclusion.
Long runs are hard, just like a lot of things. And parenting may be the hardest thing I've done, but it is perhaps the most rewarding. It doesn't give me the same satisfaction that climbing a mountain or running a marathon does. Those give me energy, and the kids just take it away. But it's energy well spent, and nothing about climbing a mountain or running gives me the same warmth that those small, loving moments do.
They are fleeting. Just like a runner's high. But they're the reason to enjoy the journey, rather than try like hell to get through it.