It was a hot summer night and my sweet M and I were headed out to her favorite night of the year second to Christmas: her preschool best friend’s birthday party. She literally waits for this day all year long. She dreams about it, she talks about it, she wonders what theme next year’s will be. It’s such a thing. It brings her so much joy. It’s also special because it’s usually in the evening, so she and I are the only ones who go. Plus, she gets to stay up “late.” The perfect trifecta.
As I drove her to her night of all nights we listened to music, talked, and I answered her cute little 5 year old questions. The ones on this particular night related to unicorns and heaven. When we arrived we just jumped out of the car. There was no clown car to unload, just our swim bag which was feeling quite light since I just had one child with me. We walked hand in hand to the party. She jumped right in to the pool and began playing happily. I joined the moms for a glass of wine poolside. I felt like I had just walked onto the beaches of Cabo. Seriously. My oldest playing happily in the pool while Daddy put the little boys to bed, and here I was out “late” enjoying a glass of wine and real conversation?! It was the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time.
I checked on M from time to time to adjust her goggles and answer more questions (5 year olds…). When it was time to eat I wrapped her snuggly in a towel, made her a plate, and sat with her while her feet dangled and swung happily in her chair, then back in the pool for more swimming. I joined the other mothers again until it was time for cake. M had been eyeing the unicorn cupcakes, and she couldn’t wait to partake. As she got out of the pool for the second time, she asked me for a dry towel. I opened my mouth to tell her that I didn’t have a another dry one for her when I realized I did. Tonight was different. Tonight wasn’t about survival mode (as joyful and wonderful as it is). Tonight wasn’t about getting 3 kids dried off, changed, fed, etc. Tonight was about her, about us, and about slowing down and letting something so seemingly meaningless mean so much.
So, I pulled out another towel from the swim bag because. I. Could. No one else needed it. Tonight it belonged to her and so did that moment. I soaked it all in grateful for something so small that felt like such a gift. Moments of gratitude in motherhood sometimes hit you in the face as you are gulping for air. You accept them as best you can and then keep swimming. This one felt different. I had slowed down enough to receive it, to embrace it, and to plant it safely into my heart.
M can’t wait until next year’s party. Neither can I.
Find the joy,
Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at http://smallhandsbigsteps.com/contact/ for more information or to schedule a consultation.