Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the Measure of Success

The last week the D.C. metro area was hot – like triple digit hot – with a thick, sticky humidity. As a result we were quarantined inside for days on end, and it started to wear on everybody, myself included. My toddler walked up and the hallways, swinging his arms, looking for something – anything, to pick up and play with, only to set it (or throw it) down after a few minutes. We did the art -- finger painting, watercolors, crayons, markers. We got creative – “shape hunts” in the house, homemade aquariums out of paper plates and saran wrap, stuffed animal parades, tea parties, sugar cookies that looked like little watermelons. But the cabin fever really began to set in. On Friday with about two hours before daddy came home we took a five minute trip to the grocery store…just to get out of the house and let the children roam. I felt like I was spending most of my day saying, “No, thank you!” “Put that down!” “Are you okay?” And: “Oh dear, what was that noise?”

So as I sat on the couch last Friday nursing the baby and watching the two toddlers unload the bookshelves for the millionth time, I found myself wondering if the day was a success. And in fact, were any of these days a success?

In the working world, there was a certain degree of satisfaction in creating something – a document, a database, briefing slides; or in fulfilling a task – interviewing agency officials, briefing staffers, leading or participating in team meetings. Most days there was tangible evidence that I was moving forward toward achieving a larger goal. But what was the evidence of a job well done about as I stay at home? Did I have a goal for the day? Most days, in between thinking up activities for the kids, I am frantically running from one room to the next, trying to sweep, mop, do laundry, vacuum, cook – anything to feel like I’m on top of the mess. My husband will come home from the day, and if the house is mostly assembled, the children are still alive, and there is some semblance of meal... I suppose this equals a job well done.

But once again my 3-year old reminded me what I had been missing. The other night she was counting the number of paper hearts that the children receive every time they demonstrate an act of love to one another. This is our way of making tangible our verse of the month – “love one another,” from the Gospel of John. When my daughter counted her hearts, she had eight– the most she had ever received. She looked very proud. “Wow, Mommy," she said, her eyes big. "I really loved today!”

And so, spoken from the mouths of babes, I find one definition of a successful day.

The laundry is nice, but did I lay myself down? Did I give of myself with a joyful heart? Was I patient, kind, and forgiving? And oh dear -- shouldn’t this standard always be the measure of my daily “success,” wherever I am – the workplace or the home?

God must give us children so that they can be three and so full of wisdom.

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