I watched her pull another board book down from the shelf, wondering aloud if this would be the one that he’d like. She followed him from task to task—dump trucks, water play, scribbling, chalk. I could tell this was a worn path of daily activities. I heard her encourage him to use his words; I heard the clock ticking down ’til nap time.
I sat there as the older, wiser (?) mother, the one giving advice and relaying tales of my own experience with toddlers and tantrums, and I remembered. I remembered those days of littles that seemed to tick by with the speed of poured molasses, those days when I thought, “What in the world do I do with them?” When I felt like a ghost of the go-getter I used to be; when I felt like my brain cells were dying with each episode of “Yo Gabba Gabba.” I remembered longing for the life I used to have, and then immediately feeling guilty for the longing, because I really, really love my kids.
I remembered one day in particular when I sat in the dirt beside my toddler as she hid an aluminum can top over and over again, squealing in delight each time I found it. Laughing as if I hadn’t found it the 467 previous times. As I buried the top one more time, I had this thought:
Half the battle in parenting is seeing the value in playing “Hide the Can Top in the Dirt” for 25 minutes straight.
Or playing Candyland and getting stuck in the nutty forest for what feels like a lifetime. Or reading that same book with the same inflections because heaven forbid you don’t. Or cutting off the crust for one child and cutting a sandwich in triangles for the other. Or looking at the floating dust particles and imagining with your child that they are fairies.
We live in an age of fast. Of immediate. Of “dream big” and “don’t settle” and “be the you you were meant to be.” And so those days spent sitting in the dirt with an aluminum can top can feel wasted. Petty. Eternal.
But oh, those moments are valuable. They are priceless.
I’m convinced that life is made up of lots of little moments with a few big moments sprinkled in. When we live for the big moments alone, pining for them as we bury can tops and wipe crumbs off countertops, we miss the ministry of the mundane. We miss the lessons in contentment; the discipline of waiting. We miss the joy that’s found in serving. We bypass the empathy that’s developed when you decide to treasure something that you would normally overlook because it is treasured by someone you love. The chewed-up board book. The missing Lego man. The dirty can top. And later…the English essay. The perfect dress for the dance. The sport they’re so passionate about, even though you can’t quite figure out the rules. The little moments are our classroom, defining us and teaching us to discern how the gospel informs each and every seemingly mindless task.
One year ago, I watched my mother arrange her mother’s bedside tray every night before she left the rehab center, the place where my grandmother spent her last days. The set up had to be just right: water jug and a filled cup with a straw pointing towards the bed; tissues and dentures arranged just so. Insignificant details—minor in the eyes of most, but shouting love to my grandmother looking on.
The ministry of the mundane.
What is your ministry today? Is it stacking blocks or sorting socks? Strolling that same loop because she loves to see the apple tree? Untangling hair knots and playing countless hands of Go Fish? Fight the glaze that threatens to overtake your eyes and be present for these moments that are not the waiting room for bigger and better things, but are, in fact, The Things that you are called to today. Sit in them. Listen. Learn. Be a student of these moments—they are your friends.
Bury that can top one more time, or twenty more times, just to see her smile. A slight change in perspective and before you know it, the mundane will be ministering to you.
Don’t forget to grab your copy of 30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents!