There are independent socks strewn around the house, and I can’t remember where my “loner” sock bag is. As I search for it, my bare foot smushes a tiny lego square and the pain, while brief, makes me question just for a moment why I ever decided to have children. I continue on, searching for the sock bag, picking up out-of-place items as I go.
“You’ll need to head home now, Optimus Prime,” I mumble as I scoop the Transformer up into my already full arms. I continue on my mission, which is now a distant memory since my eyes have met the state of our living room.
Sweet. Lovely. Imaginative. Simple.
All of the things I want our home life to be. These three babies, precious to me in more ways than I can say, all around me, all day, every day. The dishes loom in the corner of this picture, and I can’t help but wonder how it will all get done.
For a split second, I see teenagers, towering over me, spewing political views, making fashion statements, lamenting social dilemmas, clutching car keys and Frappuccinos and lacrosse sticks…
I’m reminded that this job, which may appear to be a boundless collection of humdrum activities, is actually the microscopic view of a much more compelling mission—the shaping of humans. Someday, these humans will honk their horns in farewell and turn the corner of the street until they are only a dot in the distance. I exhale slowly as I return to the present, my eyes suddenly desperate to fall again on tiny fingers and wrist rolls.
“This matters,” a quiet voice mutters from a cavern of my mind.
Every load of laundry, every splinter evicted, every peanut butter and jelly sandwich… matters.
I scoop up a fussy baby and lay him down to change his diaper. He looks up at me, smiling so wide his cheeks hide his tiny ears. I look down and get to work, cleaning his bottom, smacking my lips to make popping sounds and smile back at him. My three year old bursts through the door, dripping with costume jewelry and carrying a small army of stuffed animals. She looks into her baby brother’s eyes, voice squeaky and cheery as if she’s a grown-up speaking to a toddler.
“Hi Wes-wee! Is Mommy changing your diaper, Wes-wee?” I love that she hasn’t found the “L” sound yet.
My six year old then scurries into the room, holding his latest Lego creation, a truck with a trailer hitch. The trailer hitch can hinge back and forth, and I try to remember the moment he first learned how to make that. He enters the room in mid sentence, as if we’ve been talking for the last ten minutes, explaining the details of the speedboat he’d haul with this arrangement.
His big brown eyes shine brightly as he talks, lost in his description and unaware of the chaos around him. I smile to myself as I drink in the sweetness of his age, able to tune in and tune out as needed, losing himself in creativity and finding his way out only for select moments when he wishes to promote his innovation to others.
The house begins to shake with the sound of the garage door opening. He’s home.
In almost twelve years, we’ve weathered some seasons. Good ones, great ones, and some tough ones, too. We’re still here. He walks in. I can tell he’s tired, but he lifts up his miniature princess and kisses her cheek. Our oldest grabs his leg and he tousles his hair in response, while locking eyes with the baby and smiling. He leans over and kisses me, lightly but lovingly, and falls back into a chair. I still find rooms better when he’s in them.
I close my eyes, realize I should preheat the oven and start cutting up the potatoes for dinner. “This. This is good,” I tell myself. “This matters.”