The repetitive nature of parenting tasks create rhythms in our lives and can show up as unexpected gifts from others.
There is an unspoken beauty in the rhythms that come with parenting. Everyday, and at times every hour we repeat our work. It starts with a newborn and the high number of feedings and diaper changes throughout the day. I remember getting a booklet in all of the paperwork that came home with us from the hospital, it had a page for each day and ten little squares with a splat mark in each. It was a way to document the number of diaper changes our daughter went through for the first week, checking to make sure that everything was functioning normally in her tiny body.
Within the first few days, my brain started to move toward calculating the numbers behind that, and I stopped myself. Knowing the number of wipes or the number of diapers we went through would just make it feel like a difficult mountain to climb. Instead, I chose to not build that mountain in my head and just let diaper changes become a part of the rhythm to our day. Feeding, change, play, nap, feeding, change, play, nap.
Five years later and the foundation of those rhythms are still there. I recognize it in the morning rituals of breakfast getting, hair brushing, and finding the right stuffed animal to bring to school.
As parents, we carry these rhythms with us, into the changing lives of our children and into the lives of others. Every once in awhile, we are lucky enough to see into the drumbeat of time, to feel the moment, and stop in our tracks to witness the beauty of the repetitive work of parenting as converging and diverging rhythms come rippling out from other families and into our own homes.
A few weeks ago, I invited three other mothers and their children to our home for a playdate. I scheduled it for the end of February break so that we had something to look forward to and combat cabin fever. These lovely moms were the ones I was getting to know in those few moments during drop off and pick up at school each day as our kids stretched out the last moments of play together.
On that February day, the snow fell heavily outside but the temperatures hovered in the thirties, promising wet accumulation that would melt easily. After a few hours of exploring our toys and dress up offerings for the kids, and conversation for the grownups, the pizza we ordered for lunch arrived. As I brought it into the kitchen, I saw synchronized mothering unfold. Each mother took part in finding chairs, moving my small table to accommodate six kids, placing napkins and drinks, and taking slice orders as little voices piped up about their favorite pizza type.
It stopped me in my tracks for a moment. Each of us mothers were in various states of getting to know one another, and yet we all contributed to collectively feed these beautiful children. It was as if there was some sort of dance that we all knew the steps to or a song that was playing and we all recognized the rhythm. We didn’t have to say anything about it, we just intuitively knew what needed to be done and we found the ebb and flow to make it happen. I had a moment in my kitchen, where I realized that this was a pattern that mothers have been doing for eons.
With all of our modernity, all of our electronic devices, all of our comforts of home; this timeless coming together to care for children is something that has been repeated throughout time. Moments of care like this felt like they rippled forward from the past and landed in my dining room that day.
After plating six slices of cheese pizza for the kids and delivering them to one of the moms who served them up, I walked into the dining room. My daughter had a seat at the table, and all of her needs were met. She was happily chatting with her friends, a box of apple juice in hand and a slice of pizza delivered to her as if by magic by a helping mother.
These parenting moments seem like some form of magic. We create these rhythms, we nourish, we love, we teach, and through the repetitive motion of parenting some version of magic shows up. It shows up in our tired eyes, after staying awake to sew the stuffing back into a favorite stuffed animal. It shows up in the way we can predict our child’s needs before they even voice them. It shows up in that deep and unquestioning confidence that our kids have, knowing that we are there always for them. It also shows up when we are helped by other mothers, doing parallel work alongside us.
Every day, mothers and fathers begin the ritual of feeding and nourishing their children. No one really counts the number of meals they prepare over the years of parenthood, just like I never counted the number of diapers with my daughter as a newborn. It becomes a part of life, it becomes a parenting task rhythm throughout your day.
On that snowy February afternoon, the rhythms of my family and three other families converged into caretaking the needs of six little kids. Everyone got fed. The moms got a few moments to talk about surviving the wet clothes that come with spring, and our day continued on. But those minutes of coming together is the heart of what parenting is, this is what raising children is -a collective rhythm.