The other day, my daughter made me cry.
It wasn’t because Peeper punched me in the eye (on accident!) while we were playing. And it wasn’t because she drew this picture of me.
(Yes, I’m so #momglam with my unibrow and lopsided boobs.)
No, it was because she said the words I didn’t even know I’d been waiting to hear.
Not the L word
No, “I love you,” isn’t what made me all weepy. She and I tell each other “I love you” many times a day. Those three words are beautiful, even when they’re used to get dessert. But they didn’t make me cry.
It was this:
I was slumped at the table in my usual spot in between Peeper’s booster seat and Kiwi’s high chair. I had just run the dinner gauntlet—doing my best to fix something reasonably healthy for dinner while Peeper demanded something to eat and screamed that she wasn’t hungry, and while Kiwi cried and hugged my knees in a snotty death grip. I was beat.
Kiwi was mashing pasta sauce in her hair and Peeper was informing me she wanted the green pasta, not the curly kind. I was ready to give up.
Then, Peeper took a bite. “Actually, I like it,” she said.
“I’m so glad, honey.”
“I appreciate this dinner, Mama.”
Aaaaaaaand cue the tears.
Appreciating the worst time of day
I’m fairly sure Peeper has a vague understanding of what “appreciate” means, even if she’s mostly repeating what she hears Eric and I say around the table.
But regardless of how much she was parroting and how grateful she actually felt, I really needed to hear that my three-year-old appreciates me.
Meal times in our house are probably a lot like yours: stressful. I go back and forth between trying to get the girls to eat something other than cold tofu dogs and just giving in to their requests to fill their plates with bunny crackers.
It’s always the days when I make an effort—say, try out a recipe that’s new but not too new, or make a smiley face omelet—that the girls literally throw food at me.
And I get up and down from the table—to get ketchup, to refill waters, to find a spoon NO NOT THAT SPOON MY FAVORITE SPOON—more often than in Catholic mass. So for me, dinner is great for dieting: Not only do I not get to eat, I am basically taking an aerobics class.
Pretty much I hate dinnertime.
So it was such a gift that Peeper changed up her usual anti-food stance to surprise me with that unexpected recognition of my effort.
I don’t think she saw my tears, but Eric did. And he got it. Because dads know, too, that sometimes it’s a good thing that my daughter made me cry.
My daughter made me cry—can you make someone cry?
Peeper’s dinnertime kindness reminded me of the power of simple appreciation.
And I can pay it forward.
I can say thank you to the guy who pumps my gas.
I can tell the barista how much I enjoyed my chai.
I can snuggle into my kids, hug them extra tight and tell them precisely how much they mean to me—even when they make me cry!—as if words could even come close to containing my love.
And I can tell you—the folks who visit my tiny corner of the internets—that I appreciate you taking the time to read my words.