I had my wall up, prepared to cringe when my husband asks that inevitable question when he gets home from work: “So, what did you guys do today?”
I wonder what I can really say about another day of changing diapers, playing outside, feeding the baby, feeding the toddler, then feeding the baby again. I wonder how I describe to him how satisfying it was to put away the dishes because that, at least, was something I could check off my to-do list. I wonder what he’ll think of me as he looks around and sees the books strewn across the living room and the matching stains on all of our shirts.
Before I can respond, my 2-year-old cuts in.
“Daddy, look at Frosty,” he says, enthusiastically gesturing toward our backyard at the saddest mound of snow that ever did pass as a snowman.
“Wow, bud,” my husband says, reflecting my son’s pride. “You sure have fun with Mama, don’t you?”
“Yep,” my son says without missing a beat—like this is an unquestionable fact rather than something I often feel like I have to work really hard at.
In that moment, I’m reminded just how differently my children measure our days. They (clearly) aren’t concerned with the tidiness of the house or how fancy the abandoned Pinterest craft was supposed to be.
They just see magic in our time together.
All through my life, I had assigned value to the tasks I was able to accomplish. It was a good day if I could check items off my list or get praise for a job well done. But creating magic? That had never before been the goal.
Amazing as it is, honestly, it often feels like hardest job I’ve ever had.
From the time these little people wake up until the time they go to sleep (and often lots of time in between), I am responsible for them. And that doesn’t just mean making sure they are fed and clothed, it also means finding the balance that allows them the freedom to be children yet offers them the support they need to grow.
How do I even go about measuring that? One day, soon enough, there will be parent-teacher conferences and sports events and holiday meals where I can look around and see how much they are achieving.
But today, I’m standing too close to see the big picture.
I’m just in it with them, laughing about the mischief Curious George got in, reminding them that food can actually stay on the table when we’re done, and tucking them into bed.
You know the amazing thing about saying good night, though? I’m also saying goodbye to a version of them that will ever be that small. As a kid, I remember being amazed by this thought: I’m going to grow in my sleep without even realizing it.
Back then, this was a mindblowing revelation. Now, it feels like a metaphor for parenthood in general: We’re always growing and learning, even on those days when it feels like we’re just biding time.
So what seems to me like asking my toddler to pick his own clothes, seems to him like the responsibility of a big boy whose mama has confidence in him.
What seems to me like a walk around the block to go somewhere, anywhere outside of the house, seems to my kids like a family expedition.
What seems to me like simply drawing pictures or listening to stories about the day, seems to my kids like a signal that what they do and think matters.
I’m not sure there’s any way to quantify any of this. But the fact remains this beautiful, exhausting, wonderful season of parenting young children is the greatest privilege I’ve ever had.
If that’s “all” I can say I did today, I think that’s pretty good.