It’s not the doing, the going. That’s part of it, sure. But the important parts are the ones we so often overlook. It’s not the show I’m watching on TV – it’s the feel of my baby boy, who simply can’t seem to wind down, curling up against me and asking so nicely for my attention. All while I try to pretend that it’s not the highlight of my moment, so that I don’t distract him further. It’s the fact that in between his wrestling rough with his sisters and refusing to listen to my commands to lie down, he kept dancing and joking and cracking his sisters and me up, despite my direst attempts as being serious.
It was the pudding after dinner, which turned into a family affair – “I want THIS flavor, Mom,” “Can I have THAT spoon?” Then it was the popcorn that Jasper helped to cook by insisting on opening the door, placing the bag, then closing it and hitting “start” after I typed the numbers. It only took four attempts, after all. The pistachios we opened and ate in a neat orderly fashion, until Jazz started getting obsessed and cracking them open with his teeth, for lack of willingness to ask for help. The milk I got for Chaya after she insisted I drop everything to get it for her – which I did not do since she could do it herself. Until I finished eating and had a good moment, that is. Her smile as I handed it to her. Her laughter at Jasper’s antics later, despite him insistently standing on her knee, or kicking at her out of boredom.
My darlings laid down, drooping one after the other like the flowers closing slowly at the end of the day. They all wanted to be nearest to me, but I tried my best to prevent arguments by being dull. However, the full-sensory experience of laying them down for sleeping, the balance between argument and kind cuddling…it’s the overall sensation, like that of a fine wine, that doesn’t distill down into “what happened.”
A loving family does not come built on the foundation of clean floors and folded clothes. It is created slowly, out of the “No… not unless…” moments and the “here, does that hurt?” kisses. It evolves slowly out of “how was your day?” It blooms in the cuddles for no reason, and shines once you drop the important tasks to stop fighting and just BE.
“Do not do not do” says wise Buddhists. It means “do what is in front of you, right now, and don’t focus on what you are NOT doing, ever.” How many parents do you know who actually approach their kids in this way? Here I know the wisdom of it, and yet earlier today when I was putting away the hard-won folded laundry, I was trying to get the kids to clean up, keep an eye on the clock to get those family members not at home, and planning my next project to tackle. When Jazz handed me a toy and said “Here’s your computer, mom,” my reply was to worry about finishing in time to get people and whether I had a hand free to hold it myself – as he insisted adamantly I do. When Leah insisted on not getting dressed, following me like a shadow instead, I got incensed that she hadn’t put on pants or shoes. Yet it wasn’t until she paused at the door to gather toys pointlessly for a fifteen to thirty minute round trip that I truly pushed it – because I know that what is important is her trust and love for me, and the boundaries that I lay down to set her on course. It was the flavor of the life I’m making for her that mattered, not my upset at her ignoring me.
It’s not the schedule we set, nor the lines we draw for our kids. It’s the taste of their life that matters. For all that my eldest is obsessed with her Tablet, she also uses it to research the doings of her mentors. She watches the videos they create, and makes her own. If I didn’t talk to her, know her loves and hates and her inner thinking, I’d worry. Yet I pay attention to her, and ask the right questions. When she was recently bullied at school, I found out quickly. She trusted me enough to take my advice right away. I trusted her enough to let her later ignore it. And our relationship is honest enough that she told me when her way worked better. I have never been more proud. And nervous, but hey. She’s my most precious thing.
They all are. They are the bouquet of my life, the body and flavor, the swish and sparkle. They feed my every moment, underlying my decisions and my hopes and dreams. They are the texture that I build from, no matter which paint I might spread across that canvas. It’s so hard to explain the value of such a thing, when it isn’t the lost teeth, the outgrown clothes, the bedrooms riddled with toys. Or the amazing love of my life who not only helped me to build every beam of this home we love, but helps me to place every detail of its décor, daily. And honestly, he is the underriding fuel that you will rarely hear me extol. He is the wood of the frame, they are the canvas, and I am the paint. How can I help it if it’s a masterpiece?