I have a love/hate relationship with roller coasters. I usually spend the trip to the top of the first drop gripping my husband's arm with two hands, doing my best to leave black and blue hand prints before it's all said and done.
Then the coaster peaks, and we plunge downward. I'm terrified and ecstatic. I'm shrieking at the top of my lungs, my heart is in my throat and I'm laughing so hard the tears are flying out the sides of my eyes and streaking back along my temples. I love it. I hate it. I can't wait for it to end. I wish we could go again without having to wait another half an hour in line.
I'm on a coaster today, most days really. I love my children, I really truly do. But sometimes, I wish I could pack that coaster back up in the delivery box and ship it back to where it came from.
This morning, my oldest daughter got out of bed on the wrong side. She came out of her room, a thoroughly irritable, grouchy, grump of a grump. Everything I asked her to do, she whined about until I had had enough and sent her back to her room for a time-out. She could come out when she'd changed her attitude. When she did come out, her attitude hadn't changed much. She cried because she didn't want to make her bed. She cried because her brother was on the swing, and she wasn't. She cried because she didn't get the "good" car, and her brother did. She cried because her little sister tried to play with the dollhouse at the same time as she was, and heaven forbid that anything resembling sharing occur in our house!
Then, something clicked - I don't really know what it was, but I wish I could do it again - because suddenly, she was all sunshine and roses. Her brother and sister played happily in the den, while my oldest daughter carefully made sure that each played happily with their toys. She refereed them, she made them laugh, she picked up the toys they (and she) had strewed about and put them all away. She was a perfect little girl.
Apparently, she knew she was a perfect little girl, because she asked me, "Mommy, aren't you happy that we're all playing nicely together?"
"Yes," I breathed in profound relief. "It makes me so happy when you all can get along."
Then a few seconds later, "Mommy, we're getting along; aren't you happy?"
"Yes!" Apparently, there had been doubt before.
Another ten seconds passed. "Mommy, are you happy that we're all playing together?"
And on it went. I did not hold back my approbation, and my daughter basked in the light of it.
Then it was lunch time. I called the kids to lunch, but my oldest daughter wasn't done. She dissolved into weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Well, not really the gnashing thing, but it may as well have been. The coaster had plunged again.
Looking back, I see that it's been quite a ride. Looking forward, I know I've still got a long way to go. I guess the lesson I'm learning is that I need to take the bad with the good. The heights and the depths, the climbs and the plunges. Sometimes, the awful feeling I get on my way to the bottom hits, but that only serves to kick-start the adrenaline. Overall, when I step off the ride, I can't wait to go again.
I hope it's that way in another sixteen years when my last baby leaves my nest on her next big adventure and I look back over the long, long coaster. I think I'll come to the conclusion that it was all worth it.