Raising preschoolers is no easy task. There's not a lot of concrete evidence that my children are learning the things that I feel are valuable and important. In a typical career there are performance reviews, evaluations, and other assessment tools that let you know that you are reaching goals and doing your job well. It's not the same with parenting. The jury is still out on what these kids are absorbing on a daily basis and we mostly just try to survive around here. In fact, when Matt asks what we have done that day, I often reply "I'm just trying to keep people alive, okay?"
Clearly, I'm not defensive about this at all.
But, really. There just aren't many days as a parent when you can be sure that you are on the right track. There aren't immediate rewards. And, most of my time is spent in those daily tasks that feel so unimportant and that never change, but they are necessary nonetheless. There are things that I hope they are learning from me and, unfortunately, there are those days when I lose my temper and I hope that those are the things they will forget.
How can it be measured? How do I know what is being stored away in their little hearts and minds? I know these early years are critical as their personalities are forming, but what will be the end result?
Then, as if God knows I need some reassurance, I get a clear glimpse into the heart of my sweet Drew. He has such a tender heart. He shows love to others so easily. He forgives my mistakes so completely. And he takes care of his little sister with a protective spirit.
A few weeks ago, I went to visit my grandfather for the day. I was home in time to put the kids to bed. Drew and I snuggled in bed as we do each night. And, as usual, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was. He hesitated, so I tried to prompt him..."was it going to the park or playing video games..." He put his arm around my neck and said "No, no, mama. My favorite part was when you came back."
I love this age where he expresses his love so easily. For so long you ask them to say "I love you" or ask them to give you a kiss or hug. Drew has reached the age where he does it all on his own. And, let me tell you, it makes it THAT MUCH BETTER when your child gives you a kiss or hug unprompted. In fact, just this week we were at a doctor's appointment and the doctor and I were talking for a long time. Drew was being such a good boy considering the circumstances. Then, he crawled into my lap and snuggled up against me as I talked with the doctor. Every minute or two he would sit up and kiss me on the cheek and then snuggle back into my shoulder. When we were leaving I was sure to praise Drew for his excellent behavior and he replied, "Well that's ok mama. I just love you!"
And, the time a few months ago that I'll never ever forget. My mom was over visiting with the kids and I got a telephone call with some bad news. Since my mom was there, I had the luxury of going by myself to my room so I could just cry without worrying the kids. But, it didn't work out that way. Drew parked himself outside my bedroom door and kept calling for me. My mom tried to distract him, but he persisted. I could tell he was looking under my bedroom door as he said, "Mama, I can't see you. Mama, I need you. Mama, let me in." Frustrated that I couldn't even have a few moments alone, I went to open the door. I asked him, "Drew, what is it?" He ran in and said, "Mama, you need me. Can I snuggle you?" My heart melted at his empathy for me even in the face of my selfishness. And we did snuggle. And I felt infinitely better than if I had been alone. And my four year old knew it before I did.
So, I have to accept the fact that parenting offers no guarantees. And there may not be much evidence along the way that things are going to turn out all right.
But, I have to tell you, I'm getting less worried each day as I watch my precious son grow up before my very eyes.
I guess I don't need a performance review after all. I just need to know where to look.