My toddler looked straight up at me with his big eyes and brightest smile. I swear his little teeth glistened like brilliant diamonds.
I looked down at him and had to smile back. It was a Norman Rockwell-worthy moment. But make no mistake, it is no fairy tale.
The look on his face said “please think I’m cute more than you’re mad.”
And for about 5 long seconds, the generic rice krispies scattered all over the kitchen floor next to the cereal box did not matter.
He was more cute than I was mad. I cut him a break. THIS time.
Oh, how difficult it is to enjoy every second of raising a toddler. They are the Terrible Two’s for a reason. Because I feel like I’m doing a terrible job most of the time.
I do have something to look forward to. One day he will be grown, and I’ll be the well-intentioned little old lady at the grocery store telling a future flustered struggling mom to enjoy every moment.
I’ll forget all of the frustrations and miss the labored gift of teaching my mini-me’s the ways of the world. And I will wish he needed me more when the time comes.
But in the meantime, one of the best things I’ve ever read on surviving the trenches of parenting littles comes from Glennon Melton of Momastery (pronounced like monastery, as in nuns.)
She wrote a post called Don’t Carpe Diem and it helped me so much.
Carpe Diem. Seize the Day.
But when you are raising kids it’s just not realistic to be able seize an entire day and feel successful. She says don’t carpe diem.
The heart of her message is to seize the little moments of the day. Not the whole day. The little redeeming moments that keep us coming back. And to find the beauty in the mess.
Keeping this in mind allows me to smile back at a baby standing on top of a pile of wasted cereal. And snuggle with a baby that has just projectile vomited all over me.
This past Halloween, it was too cold to have the baby outside trick or treating, so we went to Mall-o-ween.
Our mall invites children in their costumes to parade down the halls of the mall, while employees hand out candy at the front of their stores.
Luigi was new at trick or treating and wagon riding, so I gave him those little dum-dum suckers to keep him seated and happy. It worked great.
After we were finished 5 or 6 suckers later, dad took Mario out to a nearby neighborhood to do real trick or treating and I took Luigi home to get him ready for bed.
I got his pajamas on and proceeded to lift him into his crib, and he unleashed a powerful vomit waterfall straight onto the left side of my neck, hair and down the front of my shirt.
I ran carrying him into the bathroom where I stood him on the bathroom rug to run a bath. He’s screaming and crying, and he threw up again on the rug. Think runny blue and green cottage cheese.
I rolled up the rug and tossed it out of the way. I got his pajamas off of him and my shirt off of me and tried to hurriedly clean myself up as he threw up again on the other rug.
I was amazed that so much could brew inside a toddler, but I had to get him cleaned up before I threw up on top of his throw up, and I managed to get him in the tub.
He wouldn’t sit down and screamed bloody murder the whole time, so I poured soapy water on him to try and give some semblance of a bath, and wipe myself down at the same time.
At that point I was Octopus mom, and I don’t know how, but I got us both cleaned up and he didn’t not stop screaming until I wrapped him in the big fluffy, yellow towel.
He sat down on my lap on the bathroom floor, and laid his head on my shoulder. After all that he just wanted a good cuddle.
So there we are, we stayed there for a good 15 minutes, just being still and cuddling.
In all of the mess and the chaos, it was one of the most beautiful parenting moments of my life. I can’t wait to tell that story at graduation.
Beauty can also be found in the unexpected.
He went through a phase after moving to a big boy bed where he would get up and wander through the house at 3am.
I was really annoyed with it because he would sometimes crawl under our bed and play, or get the loudest, heaviest toy we own and bring it next to our bed.
One time I was awake when he walked in, but I didn’t get up, hoping he would just go back to bed.
He just stood at my side of the bed. I thought, what is he doing?
I should make the best of this. Maybe this is a golden moment where he kisses my forehead and says I love you Mommy and gives me a big hug, and it’s a memory I can hold in my heart and cherish forever.
I smiled and was getting ready to open my eyes when he mammoth sneezed two times at super-close range right into my face, before running back to his room and getting back into bed. Where he stayed.
Even in that shocking moment, my heart smiled and there was a momentary glee.
One day back in 2007, my due date with my first baby was rapidly approaching, and so was my fear of it. A coworker told me that every single day my child would do something that would make my heart go awwwww.
And she was right.
Sometimes it’s only one thing. And it often comes just in the nick of time, in the middle of a mess, amidst the chaos.
So I completely agree. Don’t Carpe Diem. Go for one golden moment and write it off as a successful day.
So you can look down at your baby standing in cereal, just sigh, get the broom and hand him the dust pan.
***This is a quick 5 minute video that goes along with the post Glennon wrote. “There are no good days with small children.” It still makes me cry, but it’s also a great comfort.