(This article is an excerpt from the book Drops of Awesome.)
I was walking my son, Oscar, to the bus stop. I didn’t often walk him to the school bus. He was in second grade and pretty independent, and I was usually busy getting myself and his sisters ready because I’m semi-nocturnal and I sleep later than I plan to most mornings.
When it was time for school, he would usually say goodbye and head up the hill by himself. But this morning I’d made time, and we were walking together, just the two of us. About halfway to the bus, Oscar reached out and grabbed my hand in an uninhibited way that I knew wouldn’t last forever. He was seven at the time, but unfortunately for me and my wish to freeze all my kids at their current ages, he’d likely keep growing. He’d turn eight and then nine and probably ten after that. How many twelve-year-old boys do you see interdigitating with their mommies? Exactly.
So I squeezed his hand, felt the rare Seattle sun on my face, and told him I loved him. In that moment I was nearly perfectly happy.
Then the thought came into my mind, a gift from that joy-shriveling jerk in my head, That’s awesome that you’re walking him to the bus stop and putting on this “mother of the year” act today. What about yesterday and the day before that? You hardly ever walk him to the bus. He’s probably holding your hand because he’s desperate for the love and attention you haven’t been showing him.
My bubble burst. I looked down into his smiling face.
I am a crap mom, I thought.
But then an alarm went off inside my head, and another thought came.
Kathryn. What is wrong with you? You are being an awesome mom in this moment. Your child is happy. You are loving him and caring for him. He’s well fed and dressed. You’re walking to the bus stop in the early morning, and you’re already wearing a bra, for heck’s sake. Do not rob yourself of this moment’s joy because of what you failed to do yesterday or what you fear you might not do tomorrow.
……. ……. ……. …….
As I said goodbye to Oscar and began my walk back home, my mind started to shift. My life could not go on like this. There had to be a way to enjoy these moments, to simply be happy without beating myself up for all my failures. My imperfections weren’t going anywhere, but the internal flogging had to stop. I needed to send my negative voice packing and replace it with something, and fast, before it took over completely.
That’s when it hit me: Drops of Awesome! Every time you do something good, something kind, something productive, it’s a Drop in your Bucket of Awesome. You don’t lose Drops for every misstep. You can only build. You can only fill.
I walked Oscar to the bus. Bam! Drop of Awesome!
I fed him fruit with breakfast. Drop of Awesome!
I told him I loved him. Drop of Awesome!
I wore a bra and brushed my teeth before schlepping it up that hill. Two fat Drops of Awesome!
All day long I chanted these words in my head. I picked up that Tootsie Roll wrapper off the front porch instead of stepping over it for the eleventy hundredth time. Drop of Awesome! I unloaded one dish from the dishwasher when I walked through the kitchen on my way to the bathroom. Drop of Awesome! I texted my sad neighbor to say I was thinking about her. Drop of Awesome! I had an unproductive, critical thought about one of my kids, but I brushed it away and replaced it with love. Drop of Awesome!
When I started thinking about my life in terms of adding these little Drops of Awesome for every tiny act of good, I found that I was doing more and more of them because it’s a lot more fun to do good when you’re rewarded with joy, rather than being punished with guilt for every failure in your past.
By the end of the day, I realized something important. If I was spending time with my kids, really listening to them with attention, then I was a good listener, regardless of the fifty other times I’d brushed them off or multi-tasked while they were talking over the past week. And it felt really good to be that person.
If I was wiping the table after dinner, then I was a person who cleans as she goes.
If I paid today’s bills as they came in rather than stashing them on the kitchen’s Counter of Doom with all the others, then I was a non-procrastinator, whether or not the Counter of Doom remained.
As I added up these Drops of Awesome, I found that in those moments, I actually became the person I had always wanted to be.
(Image via Shutterstock)
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