The water sloshed around in the bin as I carried it from the bathroom to the kitchen, droplets splashing onto the floor. I made a mental note to wipe it up before someone slipped. I think moms make about three million mental notes per day.
I carefully set the bin down onto a spread out towel on the floor, my 3-year-old excitedly stomping behind me. As soon as the bin hit the towel, my son transformed it into a giant lake infested with crocodiles and wacky creatures, courtesy of a little boy's imagination.
His boat zoomed across the water, Batman in hot pursuit of the villain. Conveniently located to the left of the lake was a building which housed a few jail cells. Several bad guys had already been dealt justice, their blank eyes staring through gray bars.
To the right of the lake stood a cardboard town made of varying sizes of boxes covered with construction paper and decorated with the art of four toddler hands. There was a tall purple bank, a short orange church, and several colorful homes. A construction paper roadway provided the citizens of Cardboardville a way into the bustling town where trees grew in random places and people walked their squirrels.
My 1-year-old son joined in the fun, running his car along the road. "Vroom, vroom" he squealed as his car crashed through several trees and slammed into the bank. His thin, wispy curls were so adorable, and, oh my goodness, he had a smile that could melt me. (He still does.) "Whoa! Slow down!" I said, giggling, and I brought my little car alongside his. "Let's race!" I said, and off we went!
"Look, mommy! Batman got the Joker!" I turned to my firstborn to see his broad smile as he held up the captured foe for me to see before he tossed him into a jail cell. "Way to go, Batman! The city is saved," I affirmed.
This was just an ordinary day, but it produced extraordinary memories that I cherish more with each passing year. The minutes I spent on my kitchen floor that day playing with my sons didn't seem glamorous or spectacular in any way, and yet it is in these ordinary days where the best memories are made.
When I am intentional about slowing down and paying attention, in those minutes, I am happy. My children are happy. These are the kind of minutes that a joyful life is made of.
The ordinary days of motherhood are filled with challenges, but they're also filled with magic. They are tiresome and yet fulfilling. It's easy to miss the beauty for the chaos, though. It's easy to become so distracted and overwhelmed that the beauty gets by us.
Between the shuffling, the racing, the planning, and the doing, those beautiful moments of being often slip right past us, unnoticed and unappreciated. The end of the day comes, and it all feels like a blur, and the last thing I want is a blurry life gone by because I was too busy and distracted to enjoy living.
The idea of making it to the end of this motherhood marathon with loads of regret for not having paid attention or collecting those beautiful memories is unbearable.
That is why I decided upon a strategy to capture those moments and store them away in my heart. Mama, can I give you that simple strategy to help you slow down and capture a bit of the magic?
A couple of years ago, I was so overwhelmed, so busy, so lost in the chaos that I was missing out on the beauty of my ordinary days. I didn't need another big commitment, but I knew I had to do something to reclaim my joy.
I decided I would start small.
I knew from past experience that it would be best not to overwhelm myself with another to-do. I wanted a simple, effective strategy that didn't feel like an added chore, so I landed on 10 minutes a day. I determined that for 10 minutes I would put aside everything else and be present with my family.
I got curious about how just 10 minutes per day would impact my own motherhood and my life, so I added up how many joyful minutes I'd gain over the next 10 years (until my youngest child reaches 18 and potentially leaves my nest). I discovered that if I practice joy with my kids for just 10 minutes per day, I'll gain 36,500 joyful minutes. That's a lot of happy!
The possibilities are endless.
Ten minutes of reading aloud or building Lego creations.
Ten minutes of Go Fish or stirring the brownie batter and pouring it in a pan.
Ten minutes of snuggling. Ten minutes of listening. Or talking. Ten minutes of undivided attention. It's an achievable goal.
Just 10 minutes a day equals 36,500 more minutes of happiness during their remaining childhoods.
Thirty-six thousand five hundred more smiles my kids see.
Thirty-six thousand five hundred more minutes of feeling loved, cherished, and seen.
Thirty-six thousand five hundred more minutes of feeling connected.
Thirty-six thousand five hundred more minutes of focusing on those that matter most to me.
Thirty-six thousand five hundred minutes of happy memories.
It may not seem like much, but small efforts strung together to create significant change. Time slows down just the tiniest bit during those 10 mindful minutes. Your life and your children's lives are mostly made up of ordinary days—days where nothing spectacular seemingly happens—the same old routine.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you open your eyes to the wonder and beauty all around you. It can be seen in the sunrise and the sunset, in the budding trees and fallen leaves, in your child's smile and sleeping face, in the scattered toys, the fingerprints on the door, and in the comforting hug. In that sense, every ordinary day is an extraordinary gift.
Pause for 10 minutes today to see the miracles around you, and I think you'll find joy there.