I snuck inside to make chocolate chip cookies and have exactly nine minutes to write this while they bake.
There are 14 windows across the back of my house, 14 windows that look into the backyard. The window above my kitchen sink is always covered in blinds—it’s too deep across the counter for me to pull and retract them daily without standing on the countertops themselves and I’m usually too tired to pretend I’m that nimble.
My daughters washed the kitchen sink window on Saturday and the blinds are still up from then and at this point it’s not agility or lack thereof that keeps them tucked discreetly and high—it’s that I love the view.
The sky begins to draw its twilight curtains upon this Sunday evening, but for now the yard is bustling with souls cooped up all winter, souls that long for grass between their toes and gulps of crisp air. Tonight there are two on the trampoline and a toddler on his slow-motion four-wheeler that crawls across the yellow grass, but the two I notice most are my husband and son, tossing a football no bigger than a handful back and forth, in perfect spirals that arc against a background of just-budding trees.
It could well be a miracle.
(The football playing and not the promise of green. For green we know will come.)
He is the son we think hates everything; he is the son reticent to even try. He’s shy but aggressive. He’s insecure but more than physically competent. “He HAS to play football,” my brother insists. I reply with an open mouth that lacks words because I would love my son to do ANYTHING—but how to get there is the trick.
“He has to play,” he says again. “He’s so athletic. Being good at it will be great for his confidence.”
The chasm between ideals and actualities seems too great most days and my simple tiredness allows him to get away with things, slip through the cracks, spend afternoons pestering his little brother’s bottom with a marshmallow gun. If he was interested in it, I would sign him up in a heartbeat—I tell myself this. I placate myself with it. Somehow, inadvertently, always blaming him and not insufficient parenting.
But watching him play with my husband I see that none of this is really about football, or doing things, or extracurricular activities, or figuring out what he will love. Because he will love whatever my husband does with him.
Today it just happened to be football.
* * *
It is later and the kids are in bed. The dark outside my 14 windows is black and deep, the day is done, and my cold, clean duvet beckons.
But there is something else I need to say.
Lately I’ve felt the urgent need to model my daily living on Elder Oaks’ “Good, Better, Best” principle. My time is so limited as a mother, and my tasks a never-ending list—the only way for me to conquer the day, minute by minute, is to honestly asses the way I spend every moment. Sometimes best is letting the kitchen go and running on the treadmill or taking a nap (how else to survive the 3:15 bedlam?), other times best is taking care of the kitchen first, and then the floor in the family room, and then the mudroom, and then the downstairs bathroom until I am perfectly exhausted by 3:15 but still muddle through somehow, knowing that chores were only the best choice for the day and that I’m not a prisoner to housework.
Anyway, as the evening fell tonight and the day dwindled away, and I dropped dough onto a pan and watched the father and football scene in my backyard from the kitchen window, I remembered another of Elder Oaks’ missives, said with a twinkle in his eye: “What your children really want for dinner is you.”
I thought about this all through books, brushing teeth, family prayers, family hugs, last minute secrets told in hushed tones. I thought about it when I kissed them goodnight and pulled their covers to their chins and tucked lovies and stuffies and blankies in beside them. I thought about it until just now, when I sat back down at this white blank page and then looked it up online and found out that those two principles are from the same talk.
Coincidence? I don’t know. Significant? Yes. There is something in that talk that God wants me to know.
* * *
Now it is even later. Book report supplies retrieved for my daughter from the basement, Monday morning things gathered, the kitty fed, leftovers put away, more cookies nibbled on later. I really need to go to bed (best!) and stop writing, but these words seem inconclusive and aimless.
Maybe what I want to say is that Aaron is a really good dad. And I am grateful for his willingness to love our children individually and as individuals—open to and accepting of any personality they want to have.
* * *
Or maybe what I really, really wanted to say is this:
That I love my family, and I feel blessed by them and—though sufficiently humbled and tired—so grateful and lucky to be their mom.
Stepping inside and watching them from a bank of picture windows must’ve removed me just enough to remind me.