During our vacation this summer, my parents took our three big kids to the state fair while I got to spend all day home alone with our youngest. It’s been quite a while since it was just me and a baby, looking at each other in the quiet of an empty house. Without the chaos of all the older kids, I found myself remembering all over again why I chose to stay home in the first place.
What did J and I do all day, just the two of us? Well, the normal things. She waddled behind me as I cleaned up breakfast dishes and unloaded the dishwasher. She chewed on a pen while I went through the reams of artwork my kids had produced since arriving at Grandma and Grandpa’s. I got her some milk while I sipped a warm (!) cup of tea. She went down for her morning nap as soon as she started giving sleepy cues, not when I got around to putting her down or when she and the 3 year old were fighting over the same doll and I realized it was an hour past naptime. She had a good, long, quiet nap, uninterrupted by emphatic discussions in the bathroom right next to her door. When she woke up, I made her a sandwich, and she got to start eating it right away rather than waiting for me to slap together four more before tossing one on her tray. I noticed as soon as she had finished that one and made her another one before she had a chance to stand up in the high chair and start screaming. Then I got her down and she played with my old dolls while I read the book I’d started during her nap. She wandered off, and I found her a few minutes later, climbing into the umbrella stroller that had been brought into the dining room after a walk last night. I left her there to entertain herself while I did a few more things on my own. Then we looked at a few books, took a few adorable pictures (see above), played hide-and-go-seek, and ended up in the living room where my brother’s old piano lives. With no one else around, it was easy to pull her up on my lap and let her plink the keys while I sounded out some of the old pieces I used to be able to play. I found out that she sings. She probably has for weeks, but her sisters spend the day singing so much louder that I hadn’t heard her do it before. The power went out. We laughed at the semi-darkness. We played pat-a-cake several times in a row. We shared some hugs and kisses. She came back to the dolls in the family room and sat on my lap, pulling them out of their bin while I put them back in. I read her a couple pages of her big sister’s new Richard Scarry book. We went upstairs to change her diaper. She snuggled up with me for a minute before she went down for her afternoon nap.
What did I accomplish that day? Couldn’t I have hired a childcare professional to do all that (and accompany me to J’s next doctor check-up to help tell the pediatrician which skills–sorting, babble, hide-and-seek–she has developed since her last well-baby visit)? A nanny could have told me that she’s singing now, that she’s babbling several sounds in a row, that she squeals with delight when you come upon her hiding behind the ottoman or when she gets chased from one room to another. An observant daycare provider could have told me that she seems more musically inclined than the average child, and if my older three had grown up in the same daycare, might have remembered them well enough to say that she’s acting more and more like her oldest sister did at the same age. If a family member or good friend had been watching her all day, she could have told me to make sure and do pat-a-cake with her, because the way she ducks her head and burrows into your chest at the end is so adorable. Yes, I could have outsourced this sweet day in my baby’s childhood to someone else, and I probably could have been doing something prestigious and impressive with my college degree like discussing Jane Austen’s portrayal of motherhood with a high school English class. As fun as that classroom discussion sounds, I have the privilege, for this relatively short stage of life, of studying my children. (And don’t worry, I’m already sharing my passion for literature with them, too!)
Life is not always this idyllic, and it’s easy for all of us to get caught up with the business of life and miss the little moments with our kids. We can focus on the mundane aspects of our calling and miss the sublime. We may struggle with feeling the need to justify a quiet day spent accomplishing homely tasks, believing our culture’s lie that we could have it all right now if we just tried harder. Whether we’re enjoying a quiet day at home with a baby or feeling overwhelmed with the squabbles of a houseful of noisy kids, let’s remember that being everything to someone is a foundational and vital calling! Let’s press on together, shall we?