Recently I read something on Instagram about how after your life shatters around you, you learn to value the ordinary days where more things are whole and peaceful than not. My life hasn’t shattered around me but I decided to practice valuing ordinary days anyway. Here’s one.
On an ordinary day, the line between night and day is blurred for me because of the little person who will wake up hungry any time between 4 and 7 o’clock. On this ordinary day I am once again pulled from sleep by the awareness that my child is making sounds – scratching on the side of her bed and the occasional verbal complaint. I get out of my bed and turn on my little red light, and find her pressing her face against the top corner of the bassinet, searching for sustenance. She doesn’t open her eyes when I pick her up, which is a little unusual for her lately. She seldom cries at night but she’s started staring up at me with those dark eyes when I go to her. I check the time. My husband’s alarm will go off soon, so after feeding my baby I slip her sleeping little self into bed between us. She and I both normally sleep best in our own beds through the night, but we like waking up together.
Some time later, my husband comes into the room to tell us good morning and goodbye before he leaves for work. I don’t remember him getting out of bed, but that’s not unusual. The child is restless but doesn’t want to wake up enough to look at him.
“I remember that,” he says. “I remember how hard it was to wake up sometimes when I was little.”
As soon as he walks away, her head pops up and she stares after him. I say something about it and he comes back and laughs at her and picks her up to talk to her.
I could easily go back to sleep after he leaves but she’s wide awake now. I change her diaper and then arrange his pillow so she can’t roll off the bed on that side and give her her stuffed lamb and bear to play with. I rest my eyes but after a few minutes she abandons the inanimate animals to come attack my face with her little claws. Sleep is not for now.
So we have our usual morning cuddles and conversation and playtime in bed, until she starts getting a little cross. Then we cuddle up and I feed her and when she falls asleep against me, I decide that I would like to do the same. And I can. It’s an ordinary Thursday, and Thursday is one of my low-key days of the week. Not a full rest day, but a day when I don’t schedule much.
It’s ten o’clock when we wake again, and now I am hungry. I carry her out to the kitchen and prepare my breakfast. Normally I read while I eat breakfast, but today I decide to work on watching The Return of the King. I’m slightly over halfway through the extended edition for the umpteenth time and I’m taking it slowly. Even on an ordinary day, Middle Earth holds a magic and an extraordinary depth for me.
She plays on the floor while I eat, my attention slightly divided between her little red-pajama-clad body and the beautiful and dreadful movie and the chicken which shows up unexpectedly in my front yard.
I go to shower even though she’s not entirely sure she approves of me being out of her sight for more than 30 seconds. But normal-human-me has an agreement with mother-me: I will not use my baby as an excuse to neglect my own needs on ordinary days. I will find ways to take care of us both.
On this day, part of taking care of us both looks like sitting on the floor with her on my lap while I do my makeup in the mirror. It’s not painful; she is an extraordinarily patient child, especially when I keep her close and talk to her about what I’m doing. And then it looks like waiting to eat my lunch until after I bathe her and dress her and give her another feeding and nap.
Between doing the things I mentioned and also the things I didn’t mention, such as putting laundry into the washer and answering questions from my bookkeepers and bringing in freshly-delivered Amazon packages, it is past one o’clock when I place her on my bed, fast asleep, and I am hungry again. So I go to put together a lunch for myself and eat it.
By the time I’m finished eating, she’s awake again. I cuddle her for a little while and then we go to try a fancy little dress and shoes on her. The dress I’m planning for her to wear to an upcoming wedding; the shoes came in one of the Amazon packages today and I’m testing to see if I like them with the dress. I FaceTime my husband to get his opinion. We decide that although she’s princess-pretty, the shoes are not ideal with the dress. They’re also too big, so I would’ve had to send them back for a smaller size anyway.
After re-dressing her, we go out to the kitchen and she sits in her little seat on the counter while I wash up the dishes. She’s normally cheerful in this situation but as I start drying the dishes, she becomes a bit cross. I notice the time and decide she’s likely hungry again. She agrees.
By the time she’s done eating I am also hungry again so I prepare and eat my afternoon meal. Like a hobbit, I have decided that three meals per day are no longer enough for me. Despite having a theoretically full belly, the child is convinced that I should share my food with her as well. I still haven’t really introduced food as sustenance into her diet but I allow her to taste (read: suck on) my cucumber slices.
I have a few business-related things I want to do today, so I sit her up inside her Boppy on the bed with some toys and settle myself at my computer. At first I work efficiently and she plays happily. I sing snatches of the chicken dance song to her and she grins every time I look at her. But she gets tired of being there before I’m done working, so I hold her and try to keep her from attacking my keyboard while I finish up; a thing that gets more and more difficult to do as she gets older and more in control of her movements.
I intend to fold laundry after this but a glance at the clock suggests that part of her current irritation might be due to hunger and nap needs. So we settle down on the living room couch for that. She doesn’t sleep for very long but this is so much exactly what she wanted that when she wakes up she instantly smiles up at me and reaches for my face. When I lift her upright she is even more delighted and giggles at the slightest provocation. So I pull up my legs so she can sit leaning against them, and we play silly little games like “How big are you?” and “peek-a-boo” which probably wouldn’t be that amusing to a sober sixteen-year-old but which my five-month-old finds to be so delightfully humorous that she gives herself hiccups laughing at them.
Later when I put her on the floor, she grabs my phone, which reminds me of earlier that day when she grabbed my phone and opened my baby-development app which suggested to my mind that today we could play some of the recommended games for a baby of her age. I scroll through them and pick the one where we put all her blocks inside a large bowl and take them out again. According to the app, her baby brain is just beginning to comprehend the concept of things being inside other things. Or behind other things. Or beneath other things.
My husband calls to tell me he’s not coming home at once because he’s waiting for a delivery truck to come. We stay on the phone a little while; I manage to brown ground beef for dinner, put away the now-air-dried dishes, and fold half of the laundry before the truck shows up and he hangs up. Once the laundry is put away, my baby and I do some grooming to freshen ourselves up, ready for our favorite man to come home, and then she plays on the living room floor while I tidy the house.
He shows up about the same time as I join her on the floor, so I pick her up and take her to meet him at the door. She’s pleased to see him. So am I.
We sit on the couch for a few minutes; he holds her and we talk. Then it’s shoes for us and stroller for her so we can take our evening walk. Tonight is a little humid, a little windy, a little sprinkly. For forty-six minutes, we walk and talk about anything from our work, to which kind of movies we do or don’t want to watch with our small child, to people remodeling their own homes, to things we want to do on upcoming date nights, to texting with wrong-number strangers.
Back at the house, he eats kimchi while he chops vegetables and I reheat the meat. He assembles crunchy tacos for us and we eat them in the kitchen, still talking easily but not deeply. The child sits in her little seat and watches us eat as though we are betraying her, so we give her a thick slice of cucumber to chew on. Her teeth haven’t developed to the point of being able to actually eat it but she seems to enjoy it anyway.
We clean up the kitchen together and then he takes the child into the living room and they watch his tv show together while I take a shower and wash my hair. She’s crying indignantly by the time I come out, having not eaten for several hours, but the moment she sees me she smiles and reaches for me. I’m still surprised by how much this little person seems to like me.
It’s past nine o’clock. I put on her pajamas and cuddle her into a blanket and feed her and rock her to sleep, half-watching the tv show with my husband. When the episode ends I realize he’s fallen asleep on the couch, so I wake him and suggest he could in fact go to bed. He agrees, and does, and soon after I tuck my baby into her crib.
Then I curl up on my chair in my silent, sleeping house, and I write for a little while. My stomach announces that it’s hungry again; dinner was a whole two hours ago. Sometimes my current life feels like a constant round of feeding either myself or my child, but the only other option is us both feeling unwell. So I go out to the kitchen and I assemble a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I eat it sitting cross-legged on my kitchen floor, a fat John Steinbeck book on my lap.
Then I move through the house, turning off all the lights, and I brush my teeth and refill my water bottle, and I step softly into the bedroom. By the glow of my little red light, I check on my baby daughter in her bassinet. Her face tiny and peaceful and perfect under her white nightcap. Then I turn off the light and I slip beneath the covers of my bed, next to the warmth of the sleeping man I promised to love for the rest of my life, and I sigh into the darkness.
It was an extraordinarily ordinary day, and it was good.