A Life of Small Things

A few weeks back, after a particularly long day, one with more than its fair share of toddler tantrums and baby fits, one in which I was feeling tired and needy and insufficient and altogether unfit for this monumental task of raising small humans, I was talking to Jonathan about the way things used to be, back in the days before we had kids. A couple we knew had mentioned grabbing a late dinner, just the two of them, and I noted the fact that we no longer had the freedom to do such things, or, at least not with some amount of foresight and planning.

I paused, then, reflecting, and said, “But listen to me, feeling sorry for myself about something like that. It’s a pretty silly thing to miss, isn’t it?”

He smiled, and shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Sure, it’s a small thing. But our lives are made up of small things, aren’t they?”

I had not intended for this blog to become a “mommy blog.” It isn’t a dislike of or disdain for the topics or tones usually used on such blogs, for I benefit from reading the musings of other moms. It’s more that I struggle with the tension between being home and engaging the world, between motherhood and everything else. I don’t want to box myself in, to lock myself into writing about only one aspect of who I am.

And yet, I find myself drawing from and writing about my experiences as mom to two tiny people more than anything else.

I don’t know why I expected anything else; the task of raising small humans, of keeping them alive until they start to gain some measure of independence, is all-consuming. With the exception of nap time, which sometimes overlaps for these two girls and sometimes does not, they need me from the moment they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night. The level of attention they require varies – Abby will roll around on the living room floor, content with her toys, for half an hour, and Katie is adept at entertaining herself with dolls or with books or with the wilds of her imagination, and so I can vacuum the floor or wash the dishes or fold a load of laundry while keeping half an ear open for any signs of trouble – but some part of me always is attuned to what they’re doing, to ensuring both are alive and well and not doing something they should not.

My days are full. Of dishes and laundry, of playing chase and singing songs, of baby coos and toddler questions (oh, the endless questions of a three-year-old!). They’re full of messes and spills, of diapers and potty training, of belly laughs and crocodile tears and screaming fits of emotion. We paint and we sing. We build towers and knock them down. We clean up. We dance. We play.

My days are full, right up to the brim, of small things. Of moments that, taken alone, separately, apart from one another, are insignificant, tiny, insubstantial.

As a part of my Lenten practice this year, I picked up Sarah Arthur’s literary guide Between Midnight and Dawn. In it, she provides scripture readings and selected poems and excerpts from novels for each week of Lent, each day of Holy Week, and each week of Eastertide.

The readings for week three of Eastertide – this past week – fell under the heading “The Way of Affirmation.” They focused on seeing God in the world around us: in the splendor of a sunset, in the glaze on a cinnamon roll, in the wonder of a priceless piece of art.

He is here. Present. With me. This life of mine, this life of small things, has divine imprints all over it, if I will only choose to look.

I read the selections again and again, savoring this insight, grateful for the reminder. How often do I take them for granted, these small glimpses of beauty?

My days are made up of small things. Of early morning snuggles and chubby baby feet. Of late night kisses, murmured whispers of love as we turn out the lights. Of fellowship over dinner and laughter after church. Of sunrises and sunsets, daffodils and dandelions and tulips. And, yes, too, of tantrums, and endless chores, and two kids and their mom worn to a frazzle, all crying together in a discordant symphony of exhaustion. Of missing the freedoms I used to have, even as I know I wouldn’t trade what I have now for the world.

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