My son spilled cat food on the floor trying to feed the cats. My other son wrecked his room trying to clean off his desk. It was coming up on bed times. Teeth needed to be brushed. Bed time stories needed to be read. Alarms needed to be set. And now, as the kids fade into slumber, I get to make lunches and get their clothes folded so they have something to wear tomorrow. It’s mundane.
This isn’t what I thought parenting was going to be like. I mean, since the day they were born, it’s been a nonstop barrage of diapers that need changing, butts that need wiping, laundry that’s needed sorting, washing, folding, cleaning up spills, shampooing rugs, cleaning barf out of the car, and the questions….dear LORD THE CONSTANT QUESTIONS!
I can’t fault them, though. They get it from me. The messiness and nonstop questions, that is.
Let’s go back. Back to a simpler time. Back to a time where once I was done with work, I had LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE TO DO FOR THE ENTIRE EVENING! So…yeah, my 20’s. And most of my 30’s. (We had kids late, shoot me.)
I’ve written before about how I was groomed from a very early age about what an awesome dad I was going to be. I even got to try it out on my godson (who turned 19 and is in college this year ACK!). And I was amazing at it. Not one to toot my own horn, but I was the freaking bomb. We used to put capes on and run around the house like crazy men. We put on massive wrestling fights on the bed and slammed each other down into pillows. We had epic battles with aliens up in the mountains of Arizona. We fought with light sabers. Everything we did was epic. And big. And meaningful.
Which is how I thought being a dad was going to turn out. And, sure, sometimes we have battles with light sabers. Sometimes, we have epic adventures on trails. But mostly, it’s mundane boring day-to-day stuff. Don’t get me wrong, we go to Disney or the aquarium from time to time. We do have fun, but it’s never as spontaneous as it used to be. In fact, it’s rarely ever spontaneous at all. Just about everything we do is prepped. Hours of prep for minutes of fun, usually.
My boys are now 8 & 6. I don’t write about them as much anymore because they aren’t 100% sure they want their stories being posted online. And I respect that. But, at this age, I really thought we’d have had more ‘big talks’ than we’ve had. Sure, there was the ‘death talk’ a few years ago. We recently talked about the lockdown drills they do at their school as a response to the recent school shootings. But, I just haven’t been able to shake the feeling like I was supposed to be ‘doing something bigger’ by now. I have been feeling like I’m not preparing them for the world with my ‘big talks’ and my motivational skills.
Instead, I get to do dishes at 10:30 at night while everyone’s in bed…because I’m going to need that coffee cup in the morning. You know, when we get dressed and out the door to ride bikes to school so I can sit in a lunchroom filled with screaming kids while my boys eat their school breakfasts, while I dream about that cup of coffee at home that I didn’t get to drink before having to put my helmet on and ride. Sigh, it’s all so time consuming and ‘not epic’ that sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing wrong.
Then, someone said something tonight that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was about how so many of the things that make life flow properly…are the mundane tasks no one wants to do. It was like a firework went off in my head. I felt so stupid for not seeing it before!
LIFE HAPPENS IN THE MUNDANE!
Every diaper I changed, told my baby that I could fill a need they had. Which engendered trust. As they got older and called me into the bathroom to wipe their butts, my doing so just let them know that I was there for them when they had a need. This came to ‘boo boo care’ as well. My oldest doesn’t much care any more, but my youngest will only let me put band-aids on because I know how to do it ‘right’.
My oldest has commented in the past about he’s glad that we make sure they have clean clothes to wear. In fact, tonight my youngest thanked me for helping him clean up the cat food spill. My oldest told me he felt bad because he made such a mess in his room that it made it hard for us to do story times. Then, they thanked me for picking out cool music for them to wake up to in the morning.
And, both of them have thanked me profusely for being there with them for breakfast in the morning. Seriously, it’s me sitting there quietly as they eat yogurt or some fruit bar before walking them to class. There aren’t any ‘big talks’ in those times. In fact, it’s usually noisy enough that no one really talks at all. They just recognize my being there.
As someone pointed out to me during my fireworks moment, it’s our actions during those mundane moments that build the framework for their future. They see me stepping up and just assume that’s what one does. When they get older, they’ll realize just how much I hated wiping their butts or unclogging the toilets or listening to the absolute mind-numbing barrage of questions or the 58th repeat of Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows…and in those moments, they’ll know deep down just how much I love them.
I’ve realized, parenting isn’t all about the big grandiose gestures and the sweeping talks that are epic in scale and astoundingly life changing. Nope. It happens in the day to day. I can point to twenty different mundane things that make up our daily routine but are all part of one giant “I love you.”
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Keep your epic. Bring me the mundane.