I’m not a quitter.
I’ve always been the type to stick it out, sometimes even to my own detriment. My inability to quit meant that I kept trying out for the high school soccer team year after year, even after being cut. It kept me in a four year relationship about three years and three months too long.
And there have also been times when I wanted to quit, but couldn’t, which left me shouting “Just cut it out and let me die!” while laboring with my firstborn. Everyone in the room laughed and the midwife brushed off my suggested plan of action. I hated them all.
There are certainly times to quit. I just never seem to know when they are.
When my husband and I first had children, our hobbies were winnowed down to things that we could do either after they were asleep, or when they were tied down and unable to run away from us. The former involved lots of eating ice cream and watching Doctor Who after they went to bed, and the latter hiking with the boys strapped to our backs. And so we took off through the Montana hills that wound behind our home, walking mile after mile through teething, temper tantrums, and sleepy mornings after sleepless nights.
The other day, my husband and I decided to take our children on a leisurely Saturday morning hike. Before we were even out the door, Saturday morning had morphed into Saturday afternoon, and my suggestion of an easy trail was overruled by my son begging to please climb to the top of the mountain that overlooked our town.
The sun burned down on us, and before the parking lot was even out of sight, my three year old requested to be carried. I acquiesced, and as I hefted him up onto my back, I suggested to my husband that we forego the mountain top hike, and take one of the trails that wound around its perimeter instead.
“Eh, let’s just go a little farther,” he replied, whilst carrying our significantly lighter two year old. “We can always turn around.”
Five minutes later, I was pouring sweat. We were already well past naptime, never mind lunchtime. There was 1000 feet of elevation gain in front of us.
“We’re doing it,” I told my husband, as I stopped to catch my breath. “We’re going to the top.”
Now, this is no hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s a three mile walk. We were passed by multiple people who had been collecting their pensions for several years already. But we hadn’t hiked this trail since the two year old was still in my belly. It had been two years of quiet strolls to the park, and snail’s paced walks around the local pond.
It had been two years of wondering if it was a mistake to quit my job. Two years of worrying if I was a good mother, sleepless nights, and trying to figure out my new role. I wanted to accomplish something.
Even if I had to do it with a third of my body weight on my back.
As we hiked, I noticed the top of the mountain, which hadn’t seemed impossibly far when we first started out, kept slipping farther away. After this next turn, I told myself. It looks like we are almost there. I was, of course, wrong. We just had to keep walking.
Being a parent is much the same. Our goals keep moving, just before we reach them. “I can’t wait till I’m pregnant” turns into “I can’t wait to get this baby out of me.” “I can’t wait until he says his first word turns into “when will she stop talking?” “I can’t wait for the first day of kindergarten” becomes “I can’t wait until he’s home from college on winter break.”
We just keep going. We continue on, even when it’s hard, even when you are carrying all of the weight, and even when there seems to be no end in sight. We just keep going, because this is motherhood. It’s illogical, difficult, wonderful, and relentless.
You’re the same way, aren’t you? You can’t quit. You don’t even want to quit. But at the same time, you wish it wasn’t so damn hard. I know how you feel.
We made it to the top that day, sweat drenched with muscles already screaming that there would be payback tomorrow. We waved at the chipmunks who spied our jelly sandwiches, and pointed out the mountain shaped like a giant way off in the distance. My three year old requested to be carried all the way down, too.
As always, so damn hard. But just as worth it.