In life there are a few big moments, and many smaller ones. We’re reduced on our headstones to the dates we arrived in the world and when we leave it. In between many of us experience rites of passage such as graduations, a wedding, the birth of children…. The interesting thing to me about the big moments is they seem often to be anchored by dates. I remember the date when my grandfather died. Anniversaries, buying a house, stringing up the first violin I ever built myself…all things I can pinpoint in time and find on a calendar.
But often the moments with the greatest impact on our lives don’t look big. They may not even be easy to remember, let alone possible to pin a date to. Our lives are built of small things. A smile at the right moment, a cold glass of water, a tiny breakthrough or failure that leads to something larger down the line. These moments are lost in the greater scheme of things but we are created out of them like the cells that make up our bodies.
So far the calendar moments of parenting include the births of my children, first steps, starting school…. Last night I was thinking about the moments when I’ve felt most proud of them. I’m proud of Mona when she takes the time to correct a note that is out of tune on her violin without being asked. I’m proud of Quinn when he chooses cucumbers for a snack. Last night I was proud of Aden
Aden had a breakthrough recently. It doesn’t actually matter what it was to the larger world, but it’s something we have been working toward for a long time, and I told Aden years ago that when she one day reached her goal I would take her to Target and she could pick something. “Anything you want,” I said. It was one of those desperate moments of parenting when you have run out of incentives and you just need change so you grasp at something new to get the child’s attention.
Well, she finally got there. And last night on our way home from violin, just the two of us, we stopped at Target so Aden could pick out her prize.
What would you expect a nine year old child to pick? With years to contemplate everything that exists in that giant store, what would you take if someone offered you anything you wanted? I was bracing myself for her to pick out an iPod (because she loves music and has asked for one in the past), or a new bike (which she actually kind of needs because she’s outgrowing the one she has), or some outrageously large box of candy (because she’s a kid).
We walked up and down the aisles, picking out things we needed here and there as we came across them. Aden held my hand and looked around. We are still surprised at where things are as the remodeling progresses, but as long as you are not in a hurry it’s kind of fun not to know where anything is. We were not in a hurry.
Eventually we found the toys and Aden spotted a pink and blue hula hoop. She lit up when I said she could test it out in the main aisle. She smiled and laughed and asked if it was okay to have it as her prize since her other hula hoop was broken. She could have anything, and she wanted a four dollar hula hoop.
I told her since she’d picked such an inexpensive prize it was fine to also get a couple of other things I knew she had her eye on, like a sparkly jump rope and a glow-in-the-dark frisbee. She looked hesitant, but then said she did need a longer jump rope, and it would be fun to play frisbee together in the field behind our house so she let me add it to the basket.
As we passed the candy aisle I was still feeling a little stunned at Aden not displaying any sort of greed in the store and I said if she wanted to pick out a treat she could. My kids know normally not to ask for candy at Target, so Aden looked pleased to be able to contemplate the wall of candy in front of her. She chose a little carton of Whoppers specifically because they would be easy to share with her brother and sister.
Aden helped me carry a package of toilet paper and other necessities, along with her prizes, back to the front of the store for checkout. While we waited in line she looked again at everything she was getting, which all together still didn’t total fifteen dollars, and she looked at me nervously. She asked if she was spoiled.
I told my daughter that spoiled implies something rotten. I explained that she is fortunate. She was born in a country of great opportunity to parents who love her and who have jobs that provide us with a home and food and enough money left over for hula hoops. We are lucky to have the things we have but we are mostly lucky to have each other and that I know she understood that. I assured her she was not spoiled.
Aden has had many ‘firsts’ that I have carefully recorded on film or in writing, and she’s had recitals and plays and moments both big and small that have both amused and amazed us. It seems like minutes ago that Aden was just a baby in my arms at the hospital, but all those moments have piled up to form a really lovely person. It is a privilege to be her mom. And I am proud of her.