The past few days have been particularly good. On Friday, my oldest daughter Eloise warmed our hearts with a generous act of love for her sisters. For several months, she saved up “Awesome Bucks,” a positive behavior incentive at her after school program, until she had fifty to buy a mermaid tail blanket for her sisters. Later that evening, we took our children to see Frozen II, which they’d been eager to see, and as we drove they belted their hearts out in a way even Idina Menzel would envy.
The next day was filled with the typical routine of gymnastic classes, groceries and errands. As we grabbed a late lunch at the local Mexican restaurant, Eloise leaned over to me and whispered, “These have been the best days of my entire life.”
I wrestle with expectations. I build big events up in my mind for months in anticipation, often faced with disappointment that my expectation was too high for the reality. If I know a surprise is coming, I often spoil it for myself because the anticipation overwhelms me (I always peek at Christmas presents). I have always had this lingering feeling that there’s something bigger, better, more exciting than the moment we’re currently in just within our reach.
In her innocence, my 6-year-old carries pure wisdom: these are the best days of our entire life. The best days of our lives are made up of those sweet, small moments, not the big, significant ones.
A couple of years ago, I went to a retirement party for a community leader who had successfully been in his role for more than three decades. The open house thrown in his honor was nice, but truthfully, a bit dull. After an incredible career, he was sent off with a cake, a plaque, and a few hours of small talk.
I feel the same about significant ceremonies and celebrations in my own life. After 13 years of school, my high school graduation ceremony seemed dissonant with my experience, as I sat apart from the people with whom I shared those years and I waited as 500 names were read, only recognizing about half.
That’s not to say those ceremonies and celebrations don’t have any value, as they bring an important closure to significant chapters. It’s just that they will always pale in comparison to the rest of the experience. The best moments seem to fly past us without realizing that those small, sweet moments were the high points.
When I became a mother, and ever since, any parent I’ve ever met with children older than mine has reminded me not to blink, that it will go fast. It’s cliché, of course, and it’s also remarkably true. Last night, as I rocked my talkative 22 month old, Maggie, to sleep, she curled into my chest and asked me to sing “Baby Mine,” her favorite lullaby. I wondered how many more times this will happen before she outgrows it.
My independent four year old, Cora, still curls up and sucks her thumb as she sleeps, crying out for “Mama” if she has a nightmare, but during the day she fights me fiercely if I attempt to help her zip her coat or buckle her car seat. Eloise would prefer to read the book herself rather than have me read it to her.
These days are absolutely the best of our lives, and while I’m fairly certain there will be many more “best days of our life,” I’m embracing the fleeting nature of these happy days and small delights, realizing that it doesn’t get any better than this.