I was jolted awake by Allison’s cries just after 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning. She usually wakes up around 5:30am, but these cries were more pained than normal. She seemed uncomfortable. I went in her room and saw her standing in her crib, pulling at her right ear. I was frustrated. We were just at the pediatrician on Monday because Kate had an ear infection. And now, just two days later, I knew I’d be heading back there for the same reason.
I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love giving their kids antibiotics?
After Andy tried comforting her, I reluctantly brought Allie downstairs so as not to wake up the other kids. I honestly wasn’t very happy starting my morning at that time. To make things worse, once I saw the baby in the light of the kitchen, I could see that her one eye was swollen shut as well. Great. Add ‘pink eye’ to the list.
This was really turning out to be a stellar day.
I gave her some Tylenol and fed her back to sleep, grateful for a few more minutes of shut-eye on the living room couch before the other kids woke up. My eyes were still closed with a sleeping baby on my lap as all three big kids bounded down the stairs two hours later. I was just vaguely aware of the drama happening in the other room. Jack was teasing the girls for something so small that I couldn’t even believe they were letting him get away with it. Kate was insisting that Daddy help her get clothes for the day despite the fact that there were more pressing things he needed to help with to get the two big kids off to school, the biggest being that Megan couldn’t find her book to share with the class today. This Star of the Week was so excited about sharing Mo Willems’ “I Love My New Toy” with the class that she put it in her backback on Saturday afternoon. She wanted it to be ready for when she read it to her class this morning, her very first book where she could read much of it on her own. And now she was insisting that one of us moved it. “Meg,” I whispered, trying to keep the baby asleep while also lessening the drama in the house at too-early-o’clock in the morning, “You put it in your backpack. I haven’t touched it. It should still be there.”
“No!” she told me, hand on her hip, like I had just accused her of being a liar. “It’s not. I took it out to read it to Nana yesterday and now it’s gone.”
I (regretfully) responded with some sort of sarcastic, “Well, then, you know best,” and closed my eyes again. I prayed that God would help reveal the location of the book, but mostly because I just wanted the drama to be gone. I normally would have pushed myself to overturn everything in the house to find it, but I was pinned to the couch by an uncomfortable sixteen-month-old who would begin crying again if I woke her up, even by shifting my weight to allow my left arm to receive blood again. I weighed my options and figured I’d better stay put. I didn’t really feel like moving anyway. Plus, it’s not like anyone cared that I had sacrificed so many hours of comfortable and continuous sleep to make the baby happy and be sure they enjoyed a seamless stretch of shuteye. Aye. Fifteen minutes later, the favorite book was still not found and Meg was forced to go upstairs and find a new book to share before the bus arrived.
At this point, Kate, the ever-adoring big sister, was coming up to the sleeping baby to try and say hello. “Hi, Aw-ee!” she said, in her adorable three-year-old voice, caressing Allie’s head. “Are you awake? Huh? Are you going to play? Oh, you’re such a good girl.”
All of this strangely played into my subconscious until all at once I realized that this was real life and she was going to wake her up and I would be stripped of any chance to steal away a few extra minutes of rest. I startled her with a jump and loudly whispered, just barely making a sound, “Leave… the baby… alone. You can play when she’s awake!” And as luck would have it, it was my jump that awoke her, not her big sister’s hugs.
A few minutes later, Andy said, “Sorry Min, but I gotta leave for work.” I knew he knew I had a hard night. I knew he knew that I would have preferred he take off the entire day so I could nap, watch the girls so I could slowly walk the isles of Hobby Lobby and enjoy a quiet lunch all by myself. But I also knew that that scenario was a page out of another dream and that I would be the one to stay. I tried not to, but I felt like my eyes were shooting silent daggers into his. My body language said, “You lucky duck. I wish I could get a good night’s sleep and then just pounce off to work to pee by myself and eat my own lunch without any little fingers stealing food off my plate.” Of course, I didn’t say any of that out loud. But judging from the fact that I didn’t offer a very warm goodbye, he had a pretty good idea of what I was thinking. I would have run outta dodge, too.
After a call in to the pediatrician, my day was looking pretty gloomy. I had already taken away my chances of getting in a shower because of those few extra moments of sleep I tried to steal and I felt crummy. They needed to see the baby in order to diagnose any infection, so that would inevitably mean a long trip to the pharmacy afterward, too. Awesome. I debated making a trip to the DMV or to get the car vacuumed or some other chore that no one would notice, just to top things off.
I poured cereal for Kate and figured I should try and clear off the table so any spilled milk wouldn’t get on Megan’s papers thrown all over the table. Her papers that are ALWAYS all over the table and I had stayed up late to work on my own projects rather than clean the kitchen last night. That’s when I noticed a white business envelope with my name on it. It read, “I LOVE YOU MOM, LOVE Megan.”
My heart. She made me something. And she just left it for me to find.
Megan is always crafting. Always writing. Always decorating, always giving. It’s actually amazing how another human could have been created to have so much in common with myself. This girl is my twin. And no, I literally could not be more proud. But usually, these masterpieces are created for her beloved teacher. I was so touched.
I carefully cut open the envelope from the side, feeling like whatever was inside this envelope was something I was going to keep forever.
I was right.
Inside, my kindergartener had written me a letter using several of her sight words on repeat, especially one of the first verbs she had learned: “SEE.”
Hi MOM ANd DAD I LOVe YOu AND I LOVe YOU And I See YOu AnD I LOVe You I See See See YOu MOM. LOVe Megan.
Any regular person would have recognized my early reader’s attempt at communicating with as few known words as possible. But I saw so much more. I felt that I had received a word directly from the Lord. “Mindy. I see you. And I love you.”
Megan sees me. She’s watching. She notices. And even if it doesn’t register as acts of love – the waking up early, the desire to help them find lost items, the clearing off the table to make room for breakfast foods – it’s all seen. And it means something. If not to my kids, then to the Lord.
I sat down in the chair, my toddler reaching her hands up toward me, and I took a deep breath. Once again, I was humbled by the simple acts of my own children.
My worth is not found in the things that make up a day. My value does not rest in a level of success or hours of sleep. I am something not because of WHAT I do, but because of WHOSE I am. My identity rests in God alone.
Oh, how often I forget!
I remembered memorizing a verse as a child:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
When I change a diaper, take my kids to the doctor, administer medication, prepare food, pour them a bowl of cereal… I’m doing it for my God. My Creator. And those tasks don’t quite sound like too much. I owe Him so much more.
While buckling my little girls into the car for the pediatrician, I noticed Megan’s book sitting in the back seat. I normally try and let my kids learn from their mistakes and not run it to school for her. But the sweetness of her simple act in leaving me a note prompted me to be a few minutes late to our appointment and drop it off at the front office of the school.
And so with her simple act, nothing changed and yet everything changed. The situation remained the same, but my perspective had shifted. I was no longer participating in the mundane, but the eternal. With every simple act of selflessness, I was telling my kids, “I love you. I think you’re worth it.” With every small act of obedience, I was telling my God, “I love you. I worship you with my very being.” Because this stay-at-home mom is so much more than a mom, a wife, a daughter. I am a child of the Most High. What parent doesn’t delight in their children’s acts of obedience?
I still didn’t enjoy an hour-and-a-half wait at the pharmacy with two small children, nor did I appreciate the fact that Allison didn’t want to continue her nap at home and was actually pretty miserable until a few hours after the first dose of medicine. I’m even still annoyed that Megan didn’t even need that book today and that my excitement with her arrival home to see how the book sharing went was met with, ‘Oh, that. Yeah, that’s tomorrow.” Those things still annoy me. But I’m ‘trying’ to get over it. Because these small annoyances aren’t even going to matter next week, next month, or next year. So I’m gonna save my energy. It’s just not worth it.
I want to be better about reminding myself of my worth. To remember to Whom I belong. Even on days when the very best thing I could be doing is waiting on long lines for my kids and taking small naps at red lights. Because those things are just things I do. It does not define who I am.
I may need to apologize for the invisible daggers I threw at my husband, though. He definitely didn’t deserve those. 😉