As I load Abby up in my aging, white jeep, day after day, I pose a question to set the tone for our outing, set the tone for my heart, and, hopefully, set the tone for the precious years of her childhood.
“Abby, do you want to go on an adventure? Do you want to go on an adventure with Mama? Come on…let’s go!”
More often than not, our outing is not filled with pirates or dragons or jungles or safaris (though Costco on the weekend has a fighting chance of fitting one or more of those categories…). Rather, our trips usually consist of Target stops for more Honest Co. diapers, Starbucks’ drive-thrus for Venti English Breakfast tea with two Splendas and two inches of steamed soy milk (after so many years of tired, I know what I like!), and exploration of local parks with their aluminum slides and mulched play areas.
But, we find adventure in the simple. The thrill of trying a sample of ice cream at the grocery store. The thrill of a new slide at a new park. The thrill of the sound of the truck – “vroom, vroom” – driving in front of us.
This is where and how I want her to find pleasure. In making the mundane fabulous. In turning an ordinary outing into a memorable experience. I need more of this life-giving simplicity, and I want my daughter to need it to.
I’m watching her personality take shape before me and awed at how innate character traits are. Her sense of style is all her own. I don’t wear bright colors or much jewelry, but she loves both. I am naturally introverted, but she is a downright flirt. She knows when she is making us laugh and does things to encourage the humor. She has begun “howling” along with male country singers on the radio. With this sly grin on her face, she throws her head pack, puckers her lips, and…howls…there is no other way to describe her “singing.”
I nearly drive off of the road, laughing.
She is a gift that I dare not squander. Even in these toddler years. These days that seem long by 2 p.m. when I’ve run out of energy and entertaining ideas. These nights that I can’t stand to let her cry, and I go in for the third or fourth time to nurse.
These are the moments that are going to set the tone for the rest of her life.
What a sobering thought.
No matter how much or how little I am able to serve my community right now, Abby is only going to remember whether or not I stopped and blew bubbles in the front yard with her. No matter how many healthy meals I create from the odds and ends of my pantry and fridge, Abby is only going to remember whether or not I paused in my busy and growled with her like the tiger on the animal crackers container. No matter how tired I am, Abby is only going to remember whether or not I still cuddled her, praised her, and played tea party with her. She doesn’t care that my bravado happened to be fueled by several cups of coffee.
My toddler is NOT my whole world, but I am hers.
My world includes my hot, handsom and hardworking husband (how’s that for alliteration?!?!). Loving parents and siblings. An amazing community of friends and fellow mamas. A plethora of doula clients – many of whom I now call friends.
But, in Abby’s little life, her experiences are limited. Her abilities are few. Most people don’t understand her conversational efforts. Most don’t realize that she is soaking in every sight, sound, and smell – sometimes for the first time ever.
Abby takes her cues from me. From David.
When I am frustrated, she is whiny. When I am lethargic, she has tantrums. When I am occupied, she is lonely and unable to communicate.
But, when her daddy and I make eating tacos in her wet bathing suit a fun family event, she is ecstatic. When we sing the itsy bitsy spider over and over again, her face breaks into a huge grin. When we exhibit joy, she learns what it is to have a happy heart.
When I am brave, so is she.
Brave enough to search for that life-giving simplicity that I mentioned earlier. Courageous enough to drink my coffee, nurse my daughter, and love my husband even when there seems to be nothing left to give. Honest enough to allow the Lord to show me places in my heart that need to be healed, people I need to forgive, and selfishness for which I need to repent.
Because, I don’t have any extra room for all that baggage. My jeep is already filled to overflowing with strollers, Donut Man songs, hiking gear, park gear, pool gear, snacks, trash, snacks, some more trash, crumbs, random socks and shoes, and a little girl who needs me to make each and every day an adventure.