Our family has been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat for the better part of the past year. Each child (and adult) has their favorite track, and certain songs have been worn down to the point of skipping in our old school minivan CD player. I love that this music has sparked conversations with our daughters on everything from racial relations to American history to what it means to be a good spouse. I’m also eternally thankfully that most of the bad words are rapped so fast that these young, impressionable ears can’t pick up what’s actually being said.
Each of my daughters loves the songs where Alexander Hamilton is fighting to be noticed and acknowledged for his hard work and brilliance. I think they have a soft spot for the underdog, especially given that his human frailty is highlighted throughout the score. I’m the odd man out when it comes to my favorite song, though. While Hamilton is certainly the hero of the story, I find his adversary, Aaron Burr, far more relatable.
Before you write me off as a lunatic for relating to the man who ultimately kills the protagonist, allow me to relate this story back to my own. And while I don’t even want to insinuate that I’m on par with our founding fathers, there is one particular song in the middle of the first act that struck a chord in me. This song is particularly poignant as I relate it to the daily struggles of parenting four young children, especially ones with more needs than you anticipated.
Around the time of the American Revolution and in the years to follow, Burr could never catch a break. Every time he thought he was one step ahead, and could move towards his next goal, Hamilton showed up and got in his way.
As we progress through each step of childhood, I’ve found that every moment I think I’ve reached a finish line, or at least made it one step closer, I’m startled to discover that someone has moved it. The needs I thought I could anticipate, I didn’t. The moments where I felt prepared, I wasn’t. The frustration mounts to the point where I can’t seem to catch a break, no matter how hard I try.
I know that I live in a land of prosperity and privilege. I know that I am fully and richly blessed to have four vibrant beauties to call my own. But there are moments when I struggle to come out from under the cloud of responsibility and the never-ending series of jobs that are involved as their mother.
Often, there are friends who offer encouragement; those who have been through the steps before and promise, in fact, that it does get easier. Still others look at our mountain of chaos with eyes of sympathy. Watch those poor, crazy fools with all those children—why have so many little ones so close together?
When the walls of defense threaten, I conjure the memory of my favorite lyrics, sung in Leslie Odom Jr.’s beautiful voice:
“I am the one thing in life I can control.”
In a world where there are so many things I can’t control, it’s a relief to know that the one person’s behavior I can predict is my own. It’s not up to the actions or inactions of anyone else to determine my attitude. No one else’s behavior, personality, or requirements can make me joyful or distraught.
I can set the tone of our home to be one of belonging, compassion, and grace, regardless of what the outside world throws our way. And even when one (or all) of my daughters argues and rebukes the values we are working to instill, this doesn’t have to change my outlook.
Our life as a family cannot be defined by a series of finished projects. Despite my desires many days, we can’t check boxes as we make our way through, content to move on to the next best thing. This journey as their mother, filled to the brim with moving finish lines and unpredictable moments, is never ending. No matter what gets thrown our way, the anticipation of a lifetime with my children reminds me to focus less on the finish line and more on the journey.
And as the finish line moves, yet again, just a little step out of my grasp, I remind myself:
“I’m willing to wait for it.”
This post originally appeared on The Today Show Parenting Team in April 2019.