I spent the day with my son. Now, granted I spend almost every day with my son. But some days are different. Some days, you take a step back and remind yourself to remember this. This moment right here. This is why it is OK that I am always tired. This is why I don’t work anymore. This.
Benjamin and I had that kind of day recently. It was nothing big and special, nothing monumental. Nothing that was even Facebook status worthy. But some days you can’t imagine how you are not incredibly grateful every day that you get to hang out and raise your child.
But not every day is like that.
Some days, you are vomited on in quick succession about five times (let’s call that Monday). Some days your child wakes up at 4:45 in the morning declaring it is light out and time to get up (Tuesday and then also Thursday). But some days, like Wednesday, you head down to The California Science Center and The Space Museum just next door and you shoot rockets and look at satellites and watch all of the older kids in their matching T-shirts in their camp groups and you can’t imagine how some day you won’t be the one to take him to do all the cool things he likes to do. And you’re glad he is only three and clings to you and loves you in that exhausting 24-hour kind of way. And you briefly get sad and protective thinking of him older in one of those T-shirts roaming through the world or at least this museum without you, but then you think of him giggling in the corner with his friends and sitting in The Space Museum’s helicopter with a girl he likes and you get excited for him. Soon, in your mind, he is married with kids, a doctor, perhaps in a small practice, who does a lot of charity work.
But none of that is why the day was so special for me, though all of that was nice. It was one simple little moment. We got lunch at The McDonald’s at the museum (no lectures please, probably only his second visit to McDonald’s) and we got a Happy Meal and I watched him eat French fries. And it was the greatest thing I had ever seen.
He ate them with pure joy. We sat together in this big hall full of loud strangers, my child and I, and enjoyed the quiet connection between us. The fries weren’t even that good actually. I ate one and thought I remembered those being better, but for him, they were a delight, a treat. And for me, sitting there with him, together, as he ate a meal I ate as a child as well, was lovely.
Eating those fries with him reminded me of my father. My father died when I was four and my own memories of him are few, if any. My mother tells a story about how he ate French fries. He would take a very long thin one and bite in the middle and then stack the two pieces on top of each other and then bite in the middle again, repeating the whole process until there was no more fry. When he did this it made my mother laugh. When she told me this story, it made me laugh. I don’t know why. It’s not particularly funny or clever. But the visual of it, for me as a child, was something I could physically do to try to imitate who he was, how he was. And I ate fries like that for years.
I sat there with my child eating French fries, knowing I never really got to eat French fries with my dad and I was surprisingly not sad. I was filled with love for my son and for me and for us and felt lucky that we had each other.
He will not remember that day. He is just three. Childhood memories before the age of four are limited. I know. But hopefully these moments of being together will provide him with a quiet confidence. I know they have for me.
Sometimes it is just a flash, just a moment, like that one, that reminds me to take stock, to look around, to adjust what needs fixing and to accept and feel proud for what I may have done right. I am not perfect. I do not always enjoy the day to day of being a stay-at-home mom. I admit that even on that day at the science center I may have hurried him along from activity to activity because I was bored. But he and I have created a bond and every now and then, like at a museum’s McDonald’s surrounded by a sea of campers, it announces itself grandly and quite simply knocks my socks off.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.