Parenthood isn’t in the number of weeks I cradle my infant or the months I get to claim her a toddler or the years before she graduates high school.
Parenthood isn’t in the rush to create memories or the push to reach certain milestones. It isn’t in the curation of the perfect family outing or establishing the ideal routine. It isn’t in the perfectly behaved child or matching outfits or posed family photos. It isn’t the worry of what was or will be. It isn’t about racing the clock or slowing down time.
Parenthood is right now. In this moment. Whatever moment I am in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good stuff is in the little bits and pieces. The silly stuff. The unplanned stuff. The normal, no-big-deal, happens-all-the-time, couldn’t-have-predicted-this stuff.
The good stuff is in my child’s belly laugh when her cousin changes every possible word in Old Town Road to fart, toilet, or poop.
The good stuff is in her need for one more perfect kiss from me before she can go to sleep at night. No, not a crooked kiss. Only a straight one.
The good stuff is in her asking to sit in my lap when I really have things to get done- and then putting that thing away so I can hold her for just a bit.
The good stuff is how she saves her most extreme feelings for me- her safe place. The overwhelming, do-we-really-have-to-do-this, why-are-you-acting-like-a-maniac, can’t-we-just-calm-down, wow-this-is-a-lot, tantrums, and tears extreme feelings.
The good stuff is in the morning snuggles and resigning to be just a few minutes late for the sake of not saying "hurry up" one more time.
The good stuff is reading her favorite book just one more time. Or two times- while she wears a Trolls bike helmet and snuggles in my lap.
The good stuff is how she takes one bite of each strawberry before going back to the first and starting over again.
The good stuff is her skinned knees, dirty fingernails, and tangled hair from an afternoon of outside play.
The good stuff is in a dinosaur birthday party, butterfly wings, and twirly dresses.
The good stuff is listening to her sing The Little Mermaid while she "swims" in the bath tub.
The good stuff is in drinking my 7th cup of pretend coffee, making slurping noises, declaring it the best cup yet, and asking for more. With plastic pie this time, please.
The good stuff is in pretending I’m a dentist with a dramatic accent each evening to make tooth brushing fun. Or at least tolerable.
The good stuff is in watching her jumping trick one more time. Really watching. Putting down the phone or the book or the fork and watching the thing I’ve already seen her do a million times- and telling her she's amazing.
The good stuff is watching as she squeals and runs to her daddy when he walks through the door in the evening.
Yes, she’ll only be little once. Yes, this, too, shall pass. Yes, the days are long, but the years are short. Yes, to all these things, but I will not miss today because I’m worried about all that. The clock is ticking and the days are passing, but today is the good stuff. I don’t create it, I allow it. I don’t plan it, I embrace it. I don’t force it, I let it be.
I get stuff done because I’m a parent. I have rules and schedules and discipline and bad days. I yell and I apologize. I feel frustrated and tired and overwhelmed. Of course I do. I am a parent. Looking for the good stuff doesn't mean that I don't have hard stuff. It means that I’ve created the weighing system for my life and that I choose to give the most weight to the best memories. I use those moments as the fuel to keep going. I take a moment to realize that the good stuff is sprinkled into all the rest of the stuff. Today, in all of its normal, mundane, sort-of-annoying, needs-a-nap, talks-so-much, needs-a-snuggle, thinks-I’m-a-jungle-gym, only-eats-chicken-nuggets, can’t-sit-still, I-can-do-it-myself, will-you-help-me-mama glory. This is the stuff I will remember. This is the good stuff of parenting a preschooler.
Follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris for more stories of parenting and life.