I keep a lot of numbers in my head.
One is the number of pink lines I was expecting. I was ready for that disappointment. But first one and then another appeared as I watched the white stick on the counter, surprising me after all.
Two has been a big number for us. Because those two pink lines represented not one, but two little babies. They were born just two minutes apart, first brother, then sister. Then they turned two only two days before our youngest was born. A brother. Number three.
Three takes up a lot of space in our home right now. It’s the number of toddler beds, mini Pottery Barn chairs, three-wheeled scooters, and balance bikes you’ll find around here. Three plates and three spoons and three half-full cups of milk. Three sets of shoes (out of the so many more), three jackets, and three little backpacks to put on and take off.
Four is the number of years I’ve been doing this stay-at-home mom gig. Four years since those twins were born. Those four years have involved some bigger numbers. I’m sure I’ve changed about 12,482 diapers in that time. I must have done upwards of 2000 loads of laundry. I’ve served up approximately 3408 snacks and stepped on 324 Goldfish (probably).
Motherhood is full of numbers in our head. Mothers remember the exact time those little bodies entered the world, felt the weight of every one of those pounds and ounces as we cradled them in our arms. We remember the age of milestones: first tooth, first steps, first word. We know weights and heights, clothing and shoe sizes and the number of diapers left in the drawer.
Sometimes these numbers are sad ones. The week in a pregnancy where everything went wrong, the date a child should have been in our arms, the number of children we are supposed to be tripping over, a birthday that was never celebrated. We cry over numbers while others rejoice over them. Something as simple as a date on the calendar can send us into a tailspin.
Many of these numbers are ones to celebrate. The ounces gained from a feeding, the number of candles on the cake, the grade completed, the points earned on a test or scored in a game. We cheer and hug and wrap gifts and frost the cupcakes and go out for ice cream. These are the things worth counting.
Frequently these numbers are monotonous. The time we need to leave the house in the morning, the number of juice boxes that are left in the fridge, the amount of laundry done in a day, the number of months until the next checkup. These are the numbers that crowd our brains and sometimes keep us up at night, as we calculate the amount of money in the bank account and try to turn off our busy minds so we can get just one more hour of sleep (another thing we’re counting).
I thought of these numbers the other day as I sat in the backyard. Feeling the sunshine on my face, I watched those six little legs run around in the grass. I look at the delight on their faces. I count the minutes (seconds?) until I’m needed; until a knee is scraped or a fight breaks out. It’s only a matter of time. One minute? Three? Five? Who knows. But for now, I watch as they play. A triple shot of joy right in front of me. One. Two. Three.