Confession: I don’t spend very much time with my children during the week because I am at work. Maybe on a good day three hours, between breakfast and drop off, pickup and dinner and bath and bed. You’d think then, that every moment would count as quality and be all rainbows and fairy glitter, but that’s not the reality. The reality can be exhausting, frustrating, and difficult. Motherhood is a blessing but so demanding sometimes, and parenting can be so impossibly hard some days.
But this is not how I want to remember these days with small children, or how I want to go through them.
I have to corner my son between the crib and the bookshelf to get him out of his pajamas and into school clothes while he twists like a mini tornado each morning. It wouldn’t be a typical day without trying to change his diaper while he is forcibly running away from me. At meals, I ask my son to sit on his bottom or get his feet off the table, over and over and over again. I look all over the house for my son’s pacifier and find it in a bag of pretzels. I wipe down my son’s stinky toddler feet with grape scented Boogie Wipes before putting him down for a nap. I get my boy milk three times before bed and read him a half dozen books before he is finally calm enough to fall asleep.
It wouldn’t be a day of being a mom without a hundred eye rolls, two dozen heavy signs and three good foot stompings from my daughter. I double knot my daughter’s shoes and wash her wet bathing suit and towel. I braid her hair, soothe her fears, read her Magic Treehouse, calm her when her brother pulls her hair or bites her, bring her ice water before bed, bribe her into brushing her teeth, haltingly explain why great-grandma Iris is in heaven.
Every day I pick up two dozen crayons four dozen times, wipe paint off the floor or sit on something sticky on the couch. I find Easter eggs buried in my plants, green crayon all over the kitchen chair, my keys at the bottom of the umbrella stand, juice box straws in my bed, marker on the windows, Legos in the shower, pee on the floor, band-aids stuck to the laundry, crumby dishes under the television stand, peanut butter on my shoes and seashells permanently stuck in the bathtub drain. I cajole, I beg, I plead, I yell, and some days, I cry.
But. The small moments get me through the hard ones, even though most days the hard moments can feel like they lasted longer and were uglier than even the day before.
I love when my son comes barreling toward me when I pick him up at school, arms outstretched, hell-bent on getting to me before I vanish in front of him, his cheeks bouncing up and down, his Buddha belly bursting from his shirt, screaming MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA. I love his funny words he’s just beginning to say: cwackers, fur truck (fire truck), Issy for Sissy, Oooos for shoes. I love that he always wants his flannel Cars jammies and after we put them on he runs around yelling vrrrrooooom. I love his lion roars. I love how his head smells after a bath. I love when he pats my face with his chubby hands or gives me fierce Eskimo kisses by grinding his nose into mine.
I love my daughter’s fascination with animals (Mommy, what’s that pack animal that runs its prey to exhaustion?” Mommy, a peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, faster than a cheetah. Mommy….) I love sitting with her before bed, helping her write in her journal, playing hangman or coloring with her. I love her belting out songs in the car and how she always gets the words wrong. I love my “chats” with her when she tells me about the best part of her day or what happened at camp or on the playground or what her friend did.
I love listening when my kids play matchbox cars together on the floor. I love overhearing my daughter talking to my son: “You are the best brother in the whole world,” or “Don’t worry, I’ve got you bubby, sissy’s here.” I love when she helps him put on his shoes, his bike helmet, or pushes him on the swing. I love that he follows her around like a puppy, holding her hand, and I melt at the sound of their shared giggles and my son yelling EEETS FUNEEE MAMA! I wouldn’t be able to get through the day without my daughter’s sweet words of encouragement as I try to ride a bike for the first time in ten years. Or watching my son stiltedly sing grace before dinner with his dimpled hands clasped together, screaming AMEN! at the end, all while wearing his sister’s Elsa Frozen nightgown.
Parenting and motherhood are hard. Instead of looking at the big moments – first steps, first birthdays – or the bad days – their tantrums and fights, my impatient exhaustion – I am focusing on all the joy the small moments bring.
After all, loving them is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And to them, a small moment is everything.