During my years at Purdue, my girlfriends and I made many, many trips to the mall. They always included
A. The juniors department and Clinique counter at L.S. Ayres
B. Bath and Body Works for some sun ripened raspberry body glitter or whatever we were into at the time and
C. A trip to the Hallmark store to stock up on pansy-themed goodness.
Being Tri Deltas, we were obsessed with all things pansy, and one of my favorite Hallmark store items was a pansy-covered plaque with this quote. . .
Count your garden by the flowers, Never by the leaves that fall. Count your days by golden hours, Don't remember clouds at all. Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your years with smiles, not tears. Count your blessings, not your troubles. Count your age by friends, not years.
I still get a little bit choked up when I read it. Just like one of my other college faves, the song "Seasons of Love" from Rent. . .how do we measure a life? (Spoiler alert. . .it's lo-o-o-oooooooo-ove.)
As a part of our human nature, we tend to like to quantify, count, measure and mark the things that make up our day-to-day existence. We spend about 20 years in the incredibly quantitative environment of "school", measuring our age by the half-year and ourselves on our grades and our class rank and our number of credit hours or test scores or clubs or awards or medals or athletic achievements. Then we are thrown into the slightly less quantitative world of adulthood, where the measurement isn't always handed to us on a daily basis. . .so maybe we start to measure our own things. . .our mile running time or our number of facebook friends/twitter followers/instagram likes or our salary or our advanced degrees. Success is measured in a completed work project, a pound lost, a promotion earned, a new car, an award, an engagement ring. Check, check, check. Maybe our age is measured a little less closely (I am not sure the last person I met who claimed to be 37 1/2 years old) but, still, we try to count it all. I am not saying all of this measuring is always right or always wrong, just sayin'. . . it's a part of our human nature.
Then, enter parenthood. What on earth are you going to measure here? I learned pretty quickly that starting to count the accomplishments of parenthood in a day can get a little bit depressing. . .15 dirty diapers, 5 loads of laundry, 42 dirty dishes, 8 times through goodnight moon, 60 minutes of Elmo's world, 22 times up and down the stairs to put a pacifier in someone's mouth, 3 vomit messes cleaned up, 5 times up in the middle of the night, 4 hours and 30 minutes of sleep, 1 shower this week. . .well, you get the picture. Quantifying the world of a parent can get you pretty down. Or, even worse, it can get you stressed out! Did I nurse 15 minutes on each side? Is he saying 20 words? Did I read to them for 30 minutes today? How much screen time did they have? (or grams of protein or number of playdates or hours of sleep. . .you get the picture.)
Then, one day I was scouring a parenting book trying to get to the bottom of one of my little guys something-or-other sleep issue he was going through, when I saw a line in a section on the need to take it easy on yourself in the area of measuring sleep and counting feedings that stopped me cold. . .something to the effect of "Do you count the number of kisses you give to your baby?"
You got me, lady.
Um, well of course I don't!! Gosh, if I did, I bet he gets about 500 a day. . .I am kissing those sweet little cheeks nonstop!!? This one line changed my whole perspective on parenting. It was time to stop quantifying. If I am not going to count the number of kisses or hugs or snuggles or tackles or giggles or sweet smiles or deep breaths in of baby smell or high fives or toys cleaned up with no fuss, then I have no need or business to be counting anything else.
Not the dishes, loads of laundry, middle of night trips to the bathroom, hours of missed sleep. Not the diapers changed or shirts folded or Legos stepped on or countertops wiped down.
I am calling out the numbers for what they are. . .tyrannical jerks.
And It. Feels. Awesome.
Now I try my best to stick to the simple counting- one-two-three-four- got 'em all? OK! Let's go!
And not worry about the other counting, like EXACTLY how many pounds I haven't lost since Noah was born (because even estimating about it gets me stressed) or how many times Paul got up in the middle of the night vs. how many times I got up in the middle of the night. . .yep, an awesome side effect of not quantifying is that my marriage benefits as well. If I don't count, I can't keep score, and that is the surest way to more love in yo' life. And now that I recognize data for the collective jerk that it is, I can tell when it is creeping back in. I can pretty much guarantee any time I feel like I am getting stressed, or starting to lose my patience with my kids, or teetering on the edge of insanity it is because numbers are trying to creep their way back into my head. "You only have one more day to get this work project done!" , "The kids are up 20 minutes past their bedtime!", "If we don't hurry up we are going to be 15 minutes late!"
A few weeks ago I called Paul in the midst of a mental breakdown about an electric bill, and I've definitely caught myself saying to the kids more than once, "How many times have I told you to. . .", so I am definitely not cured by any means. But I am trying harder every day to count the things that count.
The golden hours.
The good stuff. :)
Photo credits- Pansies by cbransto via flickr, bottom image by Raw Sugar Photography. . .any other images that look good are by my wonderful hubs, he's got skills