The Difference between Zero and Not Zero

When I was a new mom, I went around amazed quite a bit. I don’t mean ‘dazed and confused’, although there was quite a bit of that, too (tired as I was). I was one of those moms who was floored by the most mundane accomplishments of my baby. To be fair to my former self, it wasn’t just my kid I was fascinated by. All babies were able to learn new skills, and I was in a near continual state of wonder about the whole thing whenever I thought about it. Conversations with other parents sometimes went like this:

K: Holy cow! I can’t believe it! E got her fingers in her mouth! Yesterday she didn’t even seem to know she had hands! She’s so amazing!

Other Parent: Yeah, my kid’s been doing that for a while.

K: Oh my gosh! I thought I saw that last week. Your kid’s so amazing!

Other Parent: ………………..

I have to admit that after 6 years and 2 babies, some of the shine has worn off.

I recently read in Some Internet Article (if you know which one, please speak up and I’ll quote it directly…I like to give credit where it’s due) that one of the things that’s hard for me is that I spend a lot of time getting things “back to zero”. This is kind of true. According to the article, my work includes things like making zero dishes in the sink, zero toys on the floor, zero loads of laundry left to put away (hah!), etc. This is often true.

What is NOT true, and I have to keep reminding myself of this, is that the ‘back to zero’ thing does not apply to my children. If I slip into thinking that it does which is very, very easy (because zero diapers to change, zero naps to conquer, zero snacks to give, zero boogers to wipe), then I will miss the incremental progress that they are making. You know, the stuff that used to allow me to hold on through another screaming fit about having the wrong diaper on (even though the right diaper is dirty).

If I stand in my back yard in April and look, I’ll notice the beautiful fence we put in last year, the swingset, and the beginnings of E’s fruit garden. A little closer and I’ll see mud puddles, toys strewn about the yard, and the weeds around the strawberry patch. But a little closer still, and it gets fun again. I can look close enough to see a ladybug walking on a stick. Or the new growth in my herb garden.

I think, parenting-wise, I’m kind of looking at the mud puddles right now. It’s time to focus a little more on the prodigiously ordinary things.

Today E easily sounded out a word that she couldn’t read at all last week.

Today S only had to be told to climb down off the couch 5 times instead of 50 like yesterday.

Today we went on a bear hunt. We were going to catch a Big Bear. Who us? We’re not scared.

Today E got her own snack out of the fridge and I didn’t have to do it.

Today S was SUPER ANGRY that I didn’t give him an apple. He was so upset that he composed a song about it. We sat at the piano and played with our fingers and sang a Very Sad Song (well, as sad as you can be in C Major–I’m not good at improvising).

All that’s to say, these are not the sorts of things that will get them into college someday. But they are things that happened, that would not have happened yesterday. While they may seem small by some estimations, to me they are the difference between Zero and Not Zero.

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