We talked recently about this choice we have as parents–about what we choose to see. Just like everyone has the choice to see the cup as half full or half empty, as parents we have a lot of power over the lens that we bring to each parenting situation, each crisis, each potential frustration.
But there is one specific thing as parents that we should try to see, something that’s beyond just the good in things. In one of the most beautiful passages in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Marcus makes a concerted effort to identify the beauty in a bunch of relatively mundane things. He points out how loaves of bread crack open at the top in the oven. He notices wheat bending low under its own weight. He notices even the flecks of foam on the mouth of a wild boar–an otherwise grotesque creature.
As parents, we need to always look for this beauty–especially in an otherwise sleep deprived, crazed, often loud world. As we said, catching sight of a well-played in room should strike us as wonderful and not another thing we have to clean up. We should notice the way our baby gets little tan lines where their fat rolls are. We should hear the sounds of our noisy house as a kind of natural symphony, and enjoy listening to it while it lasts. Even in their clipped fingernails and outgrown clothes we can see, as have said before, the bittersweet evidence of them growing up, the passage of time that has meant so much to us.
Marcus Aurelius had the eye of a poet. It helped him survive and find joy and gratitude in the dredges and darkness of Rome. As parents we must cultivate this same eye, so that we can enjoy and appreciate every moment of this surreal (and yes, beautiful) journey we are on.