I have favorite a memory that I will always carry with me.
It involves a cranky husband, a colicky newborn, and a super soaker.
I was cradling Sage, just weeks old, in my arms. Pete and I were both grumpy.
Okay, mostly Pete this time but that's not to say I wasn't having my share of hard days. I'm pretty sure I was in charge of the bad attitude department in our family in those days.
Overwhelmed and exhausted, we had been living in a joyless haze since the shine had wore off of our colicky newborn.
No one tells you it can be like this. But it can. And for us it very much was. It has been a rough day, a rough month, a rough 'welcome to parenthood!' phase.
And while Pete was normally the one to hold it together, he was fried.
I was, too.
I was done. Done with feeling wrung out and exhausted, done with the anxiety, done with us moping around in an endless funk. I was done with the dark cloud that had taken up residence over our normally joyful, nonsense-filled, playful home.
And I was done at this particular moment with his bad day.
I went to the basement to wash the diapers.
And then I saw it. A gigantic water gun that Pete had owned since before we met. Laying there on the basement floor. A super soaker. Just waiting for me.
Despite my pacifist tendencies, I saw my opportunity and I seized it.
Laughing quietly to myself I took the gun to the laundry sink. Jostling my baby from hip to hip, I filled the reservoir as quietly as I could. And then, on tiptoe, I ascended the stairs.
It's really hard to pump a super soaker with a baby in your arms while sneaking up the steps.
But I managed.
As I rounded the corner into the living room Pete heard it. Through his grouchy fog he picked out the telltale "squeeeeeek, squeeeeeek, squeeeeeek" that only means one thing: some is getting ready to unload a liter of ice water on you.
As I rounded the corner into the living room I heard a muttered, "Oh s**t." and then the screen door banging shut as he fled.
With a baby in one arm and a water gun in the other I took off after him.
"You need an attitude adjustment!" I yelled as we rounded the corner into the backyard. We were both laughing so hard we could barely breathe.
And as I unloaded that water gun full of cold water onto his back as he ran across the yard we laughed – harder than we'd laughed in weeks. We collapsed with laughter, our arguments and exhaustion and darkness forgotten.
The dark cloud that seemed so permanent a moment before had dispersed and we found ourselves again, there on the grass, soaking wet and laughing.
Play. It saved us.
Yesterday was full of parallels – except that my baby is not a baby anymore.
After a few hard parenting days I made a conscious choice to connect and laugh and play with my kid. We both needed it desperately. Our attitudes were out of shape and only play could save us.
How often do we play with our children when they are small? Constantly. But what about when they are older? Not as much as they might need it. Not as much as we might need it.
And I realized yesterday that my son and I need to share more joy these days.
Today more now than ever before.
And not our usual quiet sort of play – chess or projects or a walk to the creek – but an all-out no holds barred water gun war. (Even if I am still a pacifist.)
No, he certainly does not fit under my arm anymore, nor can I carry him and run. I'm not even sure I can lift him these days (though I do know he can lift me).
My son is turning thirteen in a few weeks. We're all getting older. Life is unfolding, just like that – poof! Time races on.
And yet the need remains. For connection, for play, for joy.
And yesterday we desperately needed an attitude adjustment.
I needed an attitude adjustment.
Because the truth is I keep re-reading my Peaceful Parenting your Teen blog post. I need it right now. It's a living work to connect when I could correct, to listen, to empower, to trust and open my heart.
And I want to offer my child ten opportunities for connection for every correction, yet more often than not I flip that equation on it's head.
Every chapter of parenting has come with abundant lessons. When to run to my child and when to hang back. When to trust and when to intervene. When to pull them in and when to urge them outward, into the big and beautiful world.
Which brings us racing fast-forward to today and soon to tomorrow. We're thirteen years in. It's happening, friends.
There's no time to waste.
So we grabbed some water guns and ran and yelled and screamed and pummeled each other until we were laughing so hard we could scarcely breathe.
We played. And another memory was born that I am sure to carry with me forever.
Because of this guy.
This guy! I can honestly say that since the day he was born he's been the greatest teacher I could ever have asked for.
And it doesn't look like that will change any time soon.
Thankfully, my attitude has been adjusted.