In case you didn’t know, we recently went on a family trip to Disneyland with my parents and sisters. It was about what one would expect for a trip with five adults and six kids to the “happiest place on earth.” All in all it was an awesome trip and I am so glad we went and made those memories together. The kids have recovered from their traumatizing ride on Splash Mountain, and are even planning which rides they want to go on for the next time. As I have processed and filtered through all the moments, both good and bad, one in particular stands out the most.
It was the end of our third day, and my nerves, like my poor sunburnt nose, were toast. Every overwhelming, emotional moment had taken its toll and had all caught up with me at once. As we were heading into dinner my husband and I had a large miscommunication, which resulted in a rather tense meal. Anyone who has ever had a moment like that at Disneyland can both commiserate and laugh. We managed to talk it out in between feeding our tired and cranky kids, and by the time we were done eating we were back on the same page, which was great, but it had been the “final straw” in my already strained effort to hold it together.
We decided to ride one more ride together as a family, and began to make our way from Main Street to Pirates of the Caribbean. On a good day that walk should take less than 10 minutes, but did I mention it was about 30 minutes before the electrical parade was about to start? People had been lining up for the parade for hours, and the street was a massive sea of moving people. Moving people who were also at the end of their day and had zero interest in letting people cross their path. It was my turn to be in charge of our KC baby. The child who had ridden at least once with every adult, and been returned to me with some form of the question “does he have an off button?” He had been on such an adrenaline high the whole time he had practically been vibrating. His usual manner of rapid fire questioning had been magnified by about a thousand, and we had all had minor breakdowns while trying to keep up with this insatiably curious little person.
I had a death grip on his hand as we weaved our way through the blur of people, my focus on getting us across un-trampled, and he was chattering away. “Why are all these people here mommy? Are they waiting for something? What’s an electrical parade? Why do they call it that? Because it lights up? Who was that guy mommy? Why did that girl have that shirt on mommy? Is it because she likes pink? Why does she like pink? I don’t like pink. Do you like pink mommy? Do you have any snacks? Are we going home after this ride? We are driving all the way home? Why aren’t we leaving until tomorrow? Is it a long drive mommy?” (Is your head spinning yet?)
I tugged him along, barely answering, and then only in clipped, terse responses. This poor observant, overly talkative baby, had put up with a lot of cranky people, mostly aimed at him, and he had never once dimmed. We had finally made it across the street and I was about to pick up the pace, when he said something that finally broke through my self-pitying cocoon of misery.
“Mommy, look at the castle all lit up! It’s so beautiful.”
My first response to his innocent and sweet observation was an extremely unkind “that’s great, keep walking.” And then it sunk in. We were wading through absolute chaos, he had a fairly mean and cranky mommy literally yanking him along, and he saw something so beautiful that he had to comment on it. I stopped still for half a heartbeat, and then without giving it much more thought, I pulled him off to the side. My husband made eye contact with me as he passed me by in the crowd and I motioned for him to keep going. He probably thought I was stopping for yet another moment of discipline. I bent down next to my baby, who had already asked me about five different questions about why we were stopping, and I looked him in the eyes.
“You are right, the castle is so beautiful. Should we get a picture of you and mommy with the castle behind us?” His face lit up, and he nodded so hard it had to have made him dizzy. I scooped him up, and we took a selfie. A bad, blurry selfie that would never make it onto the wall, but it’s one of my favorite pictures I took from the trip.
The moment passed, and still holding him close, I rejoined the crowd and made my way to meet up with our family. He jabbered the whole way, popping his head up and blocking my view numerous times and I was already exasperated again by the time we reached them, but that moment with him stayed with me for a while. It stayed with me as we wrangled kids onto the ride, and then listened to them either sob or rattle off questions the whole ride (I’ll give you one guess which boy never stopped talking). It stayed with me as I tried not to cry on the long trek back to the tram. It stayed with me while I finally couldn’t hold it in anymore and cried on the tram ride back to the parking garage (“mommy why are your eyes full of tears?”), and then for the final leg back to our car.
I didn’t tell my husband about it until the next day when we were in the car for the ride home, and had finally processed all my thoughts. There was something so earth shatteringly simple about this precocious little boy noticing the beauty in the chaos. Being able to see past everything that hangs me up, see past all the negative, see past the crazy and really see things, people, observe his world in ways I just can’t. To be honest, it took me a lot of thinking to finally understand why that moment stood out so much for me. I’m still not sure I’ve landed on a solid reason, but it reminded me that there is always something beautiful to be found, even in the chaos. Even when you feel like you are breaking, cracking, no longer holding it together.
Yesterday we were having one of those idyllic moments, all playing a board game together so happily. And then suddenly KC was throwing a screaming fit, and the baby was falling off a chair while I tried to deal with him, and Ryan was whining up a storm about someone moving his pawn, while Steven kind of bounced around interjecting into everything, and I was wild eyed and overwhelmed once again. But the moment when we had all been laughing, and just enjoying being together, had been wonderful. Beautiful even. There is always beauty in the chaos. These kids just keep teaching me life lessons, and I just keep hanging on for dear life. Beautiful chaos.