“What did you do today, daddy?” This is my preschooler’s favorite way to start conversation at the dinner table. She hasn’t seen daddy all day. She wants to know what she missed.
Her little world is pure and simple, lined with stickers and colorful necklaces, but still constantly changing. She cherishes the potential for adventure in every step, the promise of newness with every story. She assumes your day was just as magical as hers, but it was also full of things that she doesn’t yet know.
It’s funny to watch my husband struggle to answer. A day full of meetings and emails and phone calls would never translate to a 3-year old. “Well, I got in my car and drove into work,” is usually how he starts.
The story always progresses with the details of what he saw on his walk into his office: he crossed over the bridge, he saw runners and bikers, and sometimes he witnessed rowers practicing on the Charles River. He talks about the weather, if it was raining or not, what kind of coat he needed to wear. As he speaks, she drinks in his every word; to her, his walk into work was the most interesting walk in the whole world.
Her favorite part of his daily recant is what he ate for lunch. “What does it rhyme with?!” she always wants to know. She listens with great interest as he describes foods she knows, like burritos and pizzas, and foods she doesn’t, like Pho. As he moves on from food to the rest of his day, each detail that likely seemed mundane is suddenly magnified by her innocent (and often repetitive) line of questioning.
There is a beautiful simplicity required in taking the details of our hurried lives and stripping them down to the essentials to appease a curious and eager little mind. This exercise forces a parent to really think, to skip the bad and boring, and to highlight the good and easy: lunch, what our lunch rhymes with, the lack of rain, how many bikers we counted.
When the question is turned to me, I don’t tell her about how I forgot to move the towels from the washer to the dryer, and I had to wash them twice because they smelled. I don’t tell her about finishing spreadsheets, organizing emails, emptying diaper genies, scooping cat litter, or chasing chipmunks out of the garage. Just the basics. Just the essentials. Just the cozy, best stuff.
Kids have a way of simultaneously complicating and simplifying life. They come crashing into the world, into the reality we have spent years perfectly crafting, and they level it completely. With our sense of perfection and control erased, we rebuild around them a life that is easier to navigate. We appreciate lunch again. We notice the weather with wonder. We appreciate the things that have become ordinary because we get to see them through fresh eyes. Our little ones stretch us and mold us into lost versions of ourselves without even trying. Even if just for some of the day, we get to feel young again.
“What did I do today? Well, I got to hang out with you. And it was awesome.”
Feature image and umbrella photo credit to Audrey Nicole Photography.
White dress and rainbow photo credit to Jen Lauren Photography.