On any given day, I want time to speed up or slow down about 376 times. Fussy babies? Hurry up, nap time. Everyone is hungry and needs to be fed at the exact same moment? Let’s fast forward thirty minutes to when dinner (some moderate semblance of it) is on the table and everyone is happy and busy eating. An hour of bedtime routine and still everyone wide awake? Come on, bedtime, I’m ready to throw myself onto the couch and watch (sleep through) Homeland or Top Chef.
And then there are the moments were I want to time to stand still. You know the moments—those beautiful, tiny, unexpected moments where you step back and you see your children with new, clear eyes. Those moments where life, albeit briefly, can’t get any better and see your kids for the beautiful little people they are (or can be, in these moments).
I had one of those moments tonight. I’d told the biggies to get dressed for bed about 14 times. They were stalling, and if stalling were a sport, they’d be champions. By a longshot. The babies were all crying and frantically trying to climb up me, so I gave up and sat on the living room floor so that they could climb all over me. Instead, they started hitting each other in the face and fighting over who would get the prime spot on my lap. I was tired. Really tired. And really ready for everyone to march themselves to bed quickly and quietly.
And then it happened.
Mom, the biggies said, we have to do our show for you before bed. Dad, sit down right there. You have to sit on that couch. No, the OTHER couch. And watch us. And no talking at all. [Cue me talking to the babies and trying to console them]. You have to watch us, Mom! No talking! [Now cursing under my breath because we’re long past bedtime.] Me: Ok ok! Just do it already! Do the show! Go! GO!!!
The show consisted of Lucy singing very energetically and off key, while all three of the biggies swayed and sashayed wildly around the living room. Emily and Molly alternated jumping off Lucy’s back. Lucy continued singing while directing the others, and their routine changed as they went along. And then, amazingly, the babies stopped fighting and got off my lap, and started dancing and clapping. All three were shaking their heads with excitement, clapping, giggling, and joining in the fun.
I sucked in a deep breath between my teeth and paused. I paused the endless to-do list in my head, I paused my frustration that no one was in bed, I paused my fatigue and I just sat on the floor, watching them all: All six of my daughters dancing and singing and clapping together. The babies so thrilled to be with their big sisters. The biggies swooping down to include the babies in their elaborate dance routine. They were all so happy, and, even more than that, they were happy to be dancing and singing together.
And so, for a few minutes, I completely abandoned my mission to get them to sleep. I stopped what I was doing and gave in the laughter and dancing. I put music on my phone and we all danced and sang. I think the first song was something by Katy Perry. And then it was that song Stitches by someone I don’t know but the biggies love. I wanted to stop time and stay in that perfect moment. And for a little while, I did. We laughed. We danced. Everyone was content. This—this moment—was what life and parenthood was all about, right?
Eventually (ok, maybe ten minutes later), it was time to turn the music off and get back to real time and the daily drudgery of the bedtime routine. But that tiny, beautiful moment gave me the boost I needed to carry me over the finish line of a very long day. When I find those tiny, beautiful moments, I cling to them. I know they are a gift, a reminder to slow down. To pause. To appreciate what’s right in front of me. To be clear, I know that on many days, finding the tiny, beautiful moments is like sifting through mountains of dirt looking for tiny flecks of gold. Other days, there is an abundance of tiny, beautiful moments to be thankful for. Every day is different, and, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in parenting six kids under eight, it’s that there is no predictable day. At all. I can’t predict who will wake up happy or sick or mad or grumpy or generous. The only thing I know is that each day, there will be a lot of crying and schlepping and whining and pushing forward. But there will also be those moments that take my breath away.
So each day, I try to look for them whenever I can. I pause when I say goodbye when I send the biggies off to school each day. I hug them hard and tight. I kiss the babies’ feet and make them laugh. I notice Emily’s sparkling blue eyes and how they twinkle when she tells me a joke and I laugh. I notice how Molly has suddenly nailed how to be perfectly sarcastic. I notice how Lucy is more poised than ever. All those tiny moments make the other ones fade into the background, and remind me to stay focused on the fact that the days are long but the years are short. Those moments remind me that I’m not just getting through the days but instead we’re living and loving and growing with each day. So today, and every day—especially the endlessly long ones—I remind myself of this: there is no ordinary day. Only ordinary moments and tiny, beautiful ones. Look for the tiny, beautiful ones. They make all the ordinary ones worthwhile.
A recent beautiful moment: seeing my biggest girls walking and laughing arm in arm in the rain.
Bedtime, what bedtime? Let's dance instead.