Significant fingerprints

The hand towel pinched and rubberbanded as a cape. The bookshelf, a multi-level garage for Matchbox cars. Your bank card lost and discovered inconveniently days later in a shoebox filled with paperclips and the accoutrements of "playing grownups" The scribbles in notebooks, each a treasure map with clues leading to information that is only significant to you. When I used to babysit, I spent hours, long days, long nights with children who were the same age as my children are now. Sometimes I loved the mess of children. I understood none of it. I just saw all these little marks of kids scattered about the house. Sock puppets and Legos littered under couches. They were just the evidence that children lived here.


Now my home is full of those marks, those talismans of the critters who mess up my perfectly made bed; they are the smallest things that hold the greatest significance. They are the souvenirs of precious time that can never be repeated in the same form, with the same spontaneity. Like today when Little Man took ushered me into his room and showed me how he had moved the train track, and, like a mini-Bob Barker talking up a showcase, gestured with arms spread wide, "See, Mama? Things are always changing in here." How does a train track moved from one part of a bedroom to the other bear so much gravity? Because my boy moved it. And a month ago, he didn't pull stunts like that. He would get mental. And now he does it with ease and willingness.

And Baby Girl, who, just this afternoon, felt defeated after her first soccer game where it turns out people will push you out the way. Girlfriend came home and chased after a lizard in the house and caught it and built it a habitat. Fair princess. Wildlife enthusiast.


This is what they mean, this is what it's all about when they say parenting is a privilege. Because mostly, 95% of the time, it feels anything but privileged. Dumping the contents of a training potty to the big potty, heaven forbid it spills, five times a day. Negotiating vegetables over Nutter Butters. Never getting to just have quiet time for an idle thought, not for one minute, while driving the car.

It is not privilege, this majority of parenting. It is servitude.

But the other 5% of sweetness. Oh, the extra hugs and baby toes. The unbridled glee just because OH MY GOODNESS, YOU'RE HOME!!! from the grocery store. The newness of everything, the small miracle of discovering that sunshine refracting through cut glass casts rainbows on the floor. It is enough to have to stuff your heart back down your throat.


These significant marks of my children are sure things. From where I sit, the sure things are few--always have been for this natural skeptic. I assign meanings to many notions, I absorb messages that I think are conveyed that are probably unintended. I thought that letter he sent me meant something. I thought I heard my name being called. Red Rover Red Rover. Nope? Don't come over after all?

I know for certain that the medicine bottles Baby Girl used to stack for seeming hours when she was 2, when she gave me a respite from tending to her while I fed a newborn Little Man--I know those are no longer medicine bottles. I know they are symbols of a short reprieve, a gift vouchsafed from above when I needed it most.


She will not remember our green Honda or our own private tailgate parties in the parking lot of the grocery store, eating snacks and finding fun in the hatchback of our car. He will not remember the spot in the playground where he decided to walk, but I will. I will and I will not be ashamed that these marks and moments have made my life purpose-filled, valuable. They will not know the person that I used to be, calling my mom sobbing from college when the loneliness was crashing at high tide up against my solitary dock. They will not know the person, so ravaged by disordered eating at age 16, who was told she could lose the ability to ever have children. But I will.

Their fingerprints all over my mirrors and doors are all over my heart, my life. These are the things of which I am sure. They have meaning, they tell stories, and it is my privilege to be so stinking in love with them that sometimes it doesn't even hurt when I step on a Lego barefooted.

That is a lie.

It hurts like the dickens every time.