Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking about all the things I'm not. Causes I'm NOT helping. Music I'm NOT making. Money I'm NOT bringing in for my family. Social groups I'm NOT a part of. It's really pretty easy to name plenty of activities I'm currently sitting out as I devote my life to my home and children. And there are many, many days when I go to bed at night asking myself the question, "Self... what DID you do today?" and I can't think of one success in the entire day.
Today I emptied the clothes drier onto my bed. The clothes are still there. Today I washed dishes, but they all became dirty again and are still in the sink. Today I needed to mop, and I did--but only one room. I didn't get to the rest. Today I was supposed to have the girls copy down their 8's in multiplication, but that didn't happen because we had visitors drop by. Today we were meant to go to a restaurant for dinner for a fundraiser for our church, but I couldn't get the kids to put on their sweaters and shoes when I asked. (We did eventually go, but it took some raising of voices.)
My day was full of a lot of little failures. I sorted the dirty laundry, but didn't get my whites load washed--it's still on the bathroom floor. We were supposed to do the second half of our Ancient Rome lesson, but it just never happened. I tried to record a song while all four girls were occupied in a different room, but it didn't turn out before my time was up. I went to change the cat litter and emptied it before I realized we didn't have any refill litter--so I lined the boxes with paper towels and my house smelled like cat pee for the rest of the day. Because we went out to dinner I didn't even cook --and we had leftovers for lunch. And I yelled. I yelled kind of a lot. Nobody seemed to be listening to me. The first time I yelled was when Greta was scaring Elka by doing this thing we call "monstering." She wouldn't stop when I asked her gently the first three times, and even kept on monstering as my voice became more and more firm until finally I yelled, "STOP IT!" and she ran out of the room sobbing. Her not listening was my failure. My yelling was another.
So.... what DID I successfully do today?
I peeled and cut up four apples for my girls and their friends and they snacked happily.
I taught my visiting friend how to knit. (To be fair, she already knew how; I just refreshed her memory.)
I took yesterday's pot of leftover mashed potatoes, onions and green beans, added some chicken broth and ham, and served the kids a pretty yummy soup for lunch. I think that was inventive. That could be considered a success.
I read "There's a Bear on my Chair!" too many times to count, among other story books, to adoring little fans.
I played with Ingrid, making a little setup with two plastic pigs she lovingly named Shady and Sunny. And we laughed and snuggled and it was nice. That was a success.
I did eventually get all four kids dressed and out the door at 5:00 to meet Martin at the fundraiser night at Culver's. It took some big doings, but it happened. Success.
I cultivated creativity through drawing time and free writing with the big girls, and wrote out phrases for Elka to copy and practice her letters. Those don't feel much like successes in the big picture, but they were small successes that can build up over time to make a successful person.
I did wash their dishes and clothes, even if the jobs were never finished.
I said "yes" a lot and in return heard Greta improve in her mandolin playing and Anja build bravery when she went out to the car by herself.
I apologized to Greta for yelling and to everyone for being short tempered about them not putting on their shoes when I'd asked (a bajillion times.) I helped others apologize when feelings or bodies were hurt. And I forgave when I was the recipient of an apology. I fed my growing girls nourishing, healthful foods and indulged them just a little bit with dum-dum rewards.
I gave them a safe, loving home today, one full of music and creativity and plenty to eat and a mama who listens to their super-sized ideas.
From someone looking in at my life, I would probably be labeled a "not very successful person." And it's true that I have many, many failings, both big and small. But how is success measured? Is it measured by what you get done? Is it measured by what you gain for yourself? Is it measured by what you give? At this point in time, my life's success is definitely measured by what I give. And when looking at it that way, I'd consider today and overall win.
I gave them my attention. I gave them answers. I gave them love. I gave them me.