It was one of those days when I would have gladly traded my two youngest kids in for a pair of gerbils.
They were sick enough to be kept inside, well enough to have too much energy for their own good. After the fourth major mess, the sixth fight, and the eighth timeout, I was looking forward to bedtime -- theirs or mine -- whichever came first.
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And then one of those little miracles happened that reminds parents why we bother to be parents. As I was reading my 2½-year-old a bedtime story, she put her head on my shoulder, draped her arm over my chest, and whispered in my ear, "I love you, Dad."
Yes, the same child who had thrown her crayons across the floor and then stomped on them, the same child who tore apart her brother's puzzle and smiled while she did it, the same child who had spent a significant part of the afternoon banished to a chair in the corner, made everything OK through a simple, "I love you."
Now, I'm enough of a realist to know she might be just as difficult to deal with the next day (a night's rest can do wonders). And there was no guarantee she'd redeem herself again during tomorrow night's bedtime ritual.
What was important to me was that she reminded us both of that bond that exists between parent and child, that basic love that so often holds families together through even the worst of times.
The media is filled with stories of parents who abandon, neglect, abuse, even murder their children. We react with shock, disgust, anger at what we read and hear.
And we should. We know that's not what family is all about. We know it because every so often through word or deed, most of us do give and receive that love that is at the heart of life in a family.
What the media is seldom filled with is what happens in a vast majority of families a vast majority of the time. Day by day, we do the best we can to take care of each other. And, if we remember, we even throw in an "I love you" every now and then.
Of course, kids will still be kids, and parents will still be fallible. We'll have good days and not so good days. But, somehow, we'll get by.
So I kept my kids (I was never really all that fond of gerbils anyway). And it looks like they'll keep me, too. I guess that's what makes us family.