Last week our daughters were sitting at Grandma's pool, dangling their yet to be tanned legs in the yet to be warmed pool. The water temperature was sixty-some degrees but they didn't care. They were just happy the cover was open and they could splash water wherever they wanted. And did they splash. They splashed each other and the bricks, the pool fence, the pool toys, the pool skimmer, the pool sides. Anything in a fifteen foot radius of where they sat got wet. They were like trained seals performing a show. Then they would move to a new spot and do it all again.
I thought about stopping them. In the past, when I was a fairly poor father compared to the nearly average father I am now, I would have said some rubbish like Grandma has to pay for that water, pay to put it in, pay to heat it, pay to blah blah blah. But that night I let them splash because it was a drop in the pool. Sometimes as parents we get so caught up in having kids do the right thing all the time that we forget that we as adults don't do that. We don't eat right all the time, we don't work at work all the time, we don't exercise or file our taxes or finish some project the right way. If the number of times I'm using Zip-ties is an indicator I don't do projects the right way half the time. And it's OK.
That same day I was talking to a neighbor about why her daughter's butt was black. I had let our daughter use markers to decorate their backyard slide and the markers had smeared onto the seat of their pants each trip down. This neighbor replied it was no big deal because she is very wise. She has many children and learned long ago about letting the little things slide and focusing on the big things in life.
When you become a parent everything seems like a big thing because at first, everything is. When a baby is born you only think about keeping them alive and happy. As they get older you worry about them being alive, happy, and growing. After that it's alive, happy, growing, and learning. We can try to tweak each action to maximize their happiness/growth/learning but the list never becomes exhaustive and you'll be exhausted.
Somewhere in there, between the nearly infinite options for best things and making everything a best thing is the median we all need to find. We need to think about where our median is and reflect on how to navigate it.
I try to end each day with a moment of mindful meditation. I sit and think about something I'm grateful for and something I did that day which could be improved. This isn't a critical time but a coaching one. After this evening at the pool I've thought more about the big things in life I want our kids to know. To love and care for others, to not criticize or harm, to give and receive help. Part of focusing on those big things means letting the little things slide, like splashing water at the pool.