I keep trying to start this post over and over again. So let me start off with the point, as it were, or this instead…
One of the most profound things about becoming a parent is this: you realize all of the things that YOUR parents did for you.
Rob put together a swing set for the kids on Saturday. Rob and his father, actually. It was very much a joint effort that took all of their Saturday. Thankfully, it wasn’t terribly hot, though it was a bit warm. They both spent the better part of their day bent over the side porch, accounting for all of the parts. Then hunched over screwing and nailing them together and carrying them to where they would be set up. They were both eaten by mosquitos by the end of the evening, Jerry (Rob’s father) was stung by a hornet and they both now have a new, bright red and crispy pair of farmer tans between the two of them. They busted hump all day. There is just no other way to put it.
Meanwhile, mommy had a dress fitting for part of the day. The other part of the day she did some child wrangling of her own and a touch of cleaning. After getting Jerry outside with daddy and grand-pop, making sure he had his snack and drink, putting on his shoes and covering him in bug spray he…decided that he wanted to go back inside. This didn’t last long, he was back outside in under 5 minutes. But for those 5 minutes I felt a little bit defeated. Sometimes, parenting is always hurrying and planning. Always hard work and stress to what at times feels like no end or meaning. You get them dressed to go outside, they want to go back in. You want to put together a swing set for them to enjoy, but it takes you all day. You do one thing, they want the other.
It’s almost always hard work. And it feels frivolous sometimes. It feels like it doesn’t matter.
As I was covering Jerry in bug spray, right before he decided he wanted to go back in, I realized something. I thought that these must have been the kinds of tedious things that my mom and dad did for me. I remember some things from growing up. Them helping me with my homework. Them taking my temperature, giving me medicine and making sure I had Sprite when I was sick. I remember some of those big things because I was either old enough to remember or because they were in one way or another important. But I don’t remember my mother covering me in bug spray on evenings I was in a hurry to get outside. I don’t remember running circles around her and what she must have done to keep up with me. I don’t remember the countless cups of juice she made for me, the endless supply of hot dogs or Spaghettio’s she probably cooked. I don’t know how many times she turned on The Little Mermaid for me – probably way to many to even count to be honest with you.
I don’t remember many of those “small things.” I just don’t.
But, what I can tell you is this. Just like it takes probably dozens, if not hundreds of screws to put together that swing set, it takes countless hours of rocking babies to sleep, changing diapers, reading the same Babar book over and over…and over again to grow a family. It takes hundreds of tantrums and meltdowns over not being able to watch another cartoon. It takes hundreds of times of saying”shhhh, it’s alright, sweetie” to calm down an upset baby. It takes Dozens of times of making juice one-handed with a sleeping baby on the other arm..and (unfortunately) spilling it everywhere. I may not remember each and every specific little thing that my mom and dad did for me, but I know in my heart the bigger picture. That I was loved. I was cared for. I was valued. So when you’re worried or wondering why it all matters, as you are searching for toys under the sofa or spreading peanut butter onto bread, these words: what you do does matter.
It takes a million little things to hold the big things together to make something greater.
Rob and his dad busted their butts off doing something tedious and a bit painstaking so that our kids could have simple, little moments of happiness. Some of which, maybe even most of which, they won’t even remember. But it will add to the feelings when looking back at these years of just how loved and happy they were. That these were good years. That they were loved. And hey, even if they don’t remember playing on this swing set, I’m pretty sure like me, they will be doing something with their own children and it will click for them.
Here is to those “aside moments.” Little moments that add up to the greater whole. And happy little smiling faces that we get to enjoy.