I am not perfect. I'm nowhere near close to being perfect...or even good for that matter. In fact, my imperfections are what led me to doing these acts of kindness, because I want to be a better person. I'm stubborn, I worry nonstop, I have little to no patience, I live to eat, I curse like a sailor, I am an avid eye roller, and I yell when stressed.
While motherhood is one of my greatest blessings, it can also be one of my biggest stressors. I want to do good. I want to be a great mom, a perfect mom, but I somehow feel that I always fall short. I have loads of laundry that need to be done, I have dishes piled up in my sink, there are play dates that I should arrange but am too tired to orchestrate. I secretly do a victory dance when both my girls lay down for a nap, and sometimes, I pretend to use the restroom just so I can get a minute to myself. I don't like these parts of me.
There are times when I lay down at night and think, "Wow, Ali, you were a good mom today," and then there are other nights when I run through the laundry list of things I should have done better. I should have made a more healthy lunch for the girls. I didn't do a sensory activity with Ceci today. I forgot to make Laila practice counting by 5's. Let's be real, there are even days, when getting Ceci in a diaper without working up a sweat is an accomplishment. Some days I am proud of myself; most days, I feel like I have failed.
I am lucky though, because as I am diaper wrestling Ceci, there is a little body next to me with baby wipes ready to go. When I forget a bottle at nap time, a little hand reaches out to me with the one I left on the counter. On days when I feel defeated, a soft voice says, "You are doing a good job. We all make mistakes."
Laila: My buddy, my first born, my sweetheart, my biggest cheerleader, my helper, my love.
Laila is this amazing, little person, who I am pretty sure is not related to me at all. She loves everyone and judges no one. She gives and forgives, and then, she forgives some more. She focuses on the positive and brings a contagious zest for life wherever she goes. Laila is happiness and unconditional love all packaged in one teeny-tiny body.
I will sadly admit that sometimes, I take her and all the help she provides me for granted. I'm too busy worrying and rushing and yelling about things that don't really matter. I am blind to so many of the blessings that are around me sometimes...blessings like Laila.
Being a big sister isn't easy, this I know. Laila devotes much of her time to feeding Ceci Cheerios, trying to make her laugh, teaching Ceci how to master new skills, and allowing Ceci to pull her hair and steal her toys.
I decided to focus my act of kindness on Laila. Today was Laila Day at our house. Laila had a fancy bubble bath, per her request, first thing this morning. She then went on to have a delicious bowl of oatmeal and a chocolate brownie for her breakfast, along with a giant glass of orange juice. When breakfast was over, I asked her what the rules were going to be for Laila Day. I told her we would all follow whatever rules she created. This was a brave move on my part.
Laila sat in contemplation for a few moments. I fed Ceci a Cheerio and handed her the sippy cup. "Okay," Laila said, "I have my rules mom, and there are three."
I nod for her to proceede. "The first rule, " Laila announces, "is no running." I think to myself about how that will be an easy rule for me. I hate running. Running stinks.
Laila continues "Everyone has to take their time today, even you, mom." I realize that this rule may be a little bit harder than I originally thought. No rushing. No scampering about. No acting like a mad woman as I go about my daily routine. Just a slow, steady pace.
"Next, there is absolutely no yelling. We all have to talk nicely to one another," Laila says. I nod my head and know that this will be a challenge.
"My last rule," Laila states, "is that everyone must try their best to be happy. If there is something you don't like, you must try your very hardest to find something good." My heart starts to race a little bit.
I had planned to paint her nails for her day, watch her favorite movie with her, help her with a craft of her choice, make her a crown, bake some cookies, play a game of Operation, have our dance party time. These were things I could do. Acts of kindness well within my comfort range, but Laila had a completely different idea.
I wanted to give her the day she deserved, so I did my very best.
During Ceci's mid-morning diaper change, I paced myself. So what if she rolls over before I even have the diaper ready? It's okay if it takes me ten minutes to get her diaper off and another fifteen to get a new one on. And you know what, if she never gets her outfit back on, that may just be okay too, because I'm not in a hurry.
In fact, I didn't run after her when she began to crawl away from me completely naked. I didn't look at Laila and say in a panicked tone, "Hurry! Hand me those wipes. Shoot! Your sister is completely naked and making an escape. Uhhhh! I am so stressed..." No, instead, as Ceci darted into the next room without any clothing on, Laila and I giggled and walked after her, and when I thought I had secured Ceci and she escaped again, we both just laughed some more.
"I like this no running rule, Laila," I say. Laila looks at me and smiles.
And at lunch, when Ceci was screaming because her food wasn't on her tray fast enough and Laila was singing at the top of her lungs, as I burnt my hand, no mean words escaped my lips.
Later, when Laila dumped an entire box of Goldfish crackers onto the floor, I didn't reprimand her with anger in my voice. I simply said, "It's okay. Everyone makes mistakes. Let's clean this up together," and then we talked nicely to one another about better ways to get a snack.
"You are good at not yelling, mom," Laila says to me, "I can tell you are trying."
"It feels good not to yell," I say to Laila, and we both smile.
And when I stopped rushing and stressing and being impatient and yelling, I realized that being happy, Laila's final rule, came naturally.
Before she went to bed tonight, Laila looked at me with her big, hazel eyes, and said, "Thanks for a nice day mom."
"You are very welcome," I replied, "but we didn't do half of the awesome things I had planned for you. I wanted to give you the best day ever."
Laila looks at me with a sweet smile that only she can give, and says, "just being with you and having you happy was enough."
And she is right, happiness really is enough.