The Joy of Life: Reasons to sweat the small stuff

The weekend was just two days away, and we hadn't yet planned for a babysitter.

"We could come there and stay overnight, if you want," said my mom on the phone. My parents live about two hours away, and Mom usually jumps at the chance to pack her slippers and see her grandson.  There was a pause on my end. "Only if you want…" Mom added.

The pause didn't mean I didn't want my parents to come over. The idea sounded fun. I just knew it would be a lot of work. To most of our friends, my wife and I are neat--we keep a clean house. My parents, however,  are meticulous perfectionists. Their visits require…shall we say…a little extra preparation?

Before their arrival, we typically do things around the house that my friends would never notice, things like, oiling the wood tables and cabinets and making sure that the towels on display are seasonally appropriate.

During their visits I chiefly have two concerns: One, I want them to see everything in its place in the hope that they will eventually learn that they don't have to worry about us, and two, I'm honoring my past.

It may sound corny, but hosting them and doing it right is my way of showing them that I see -- and appreciate -- the life they made for me. Some saw my childhood as idyllic. It featured pool parties with ice pops, campfires with marshmallows, a fluffy dog and a swing set.

Some probably also saw my childhood with a disability as hard. But my parents counterbalanced that hardship -- one that none of us could've done anything about -- with a million little niceties. This is how I learned in a very real sense that it is the little things that add up to make a life.

The crackle of a log on the fire; the smell of comfort food during Sunday football. My parents were masters at making the most of everyday moments.  

I clean many things before they arrive, even when I say it's going to be casual. But it's worth it. I will take every chance I get to show them what I've learned. And by the time they leave on Sunday, I will be sitting with my son in the big, comfy chair watching football in a clean house that's appropriately decorated for the season.

This is what I realized in that pause Mom heard in our phone conversation last week.

"No, I want you to come over," I said. "It will be fun. I am looking forward to it!"

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