Posted: Oct 02, 2013 10:00 AM
In college, I often began my mornings thumbing through my worn copy of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. Now that I'm a mom, I'm creating my own running list of what makes me happy in motherhood. Despite the fact that motherhood is exhausting and emotionally challenging, there are always things that make it all worth it.

I spent my last semester of college fulfilling my student teaching duties in a fourth grade classroom in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Taking over another teacher's class for several months was my final test to prove I was worthy of my own classroom — that everything I had learned about child development and classroom management actually meant something. I didn't know a lot about fourth graders, but I did have a lot of saved ideas — classroom routines I had been dreaming of implementing from the very first day I picked teaching for a career. One of these was a morning happy list — a way to start every day on a good note. It was an easy concept: I'd take my tattered copy of one of my favorite books, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, and I'd pick a few of these happy things to write on the blackboard every morning, reminding my students that little things were to be celebrated. This simple activity soon became one of my students' favorite daily routines, eventually leading to them begging to take turns choosing our daily happy list. Throughout the months that followed, along with fractions and the effects of supply and demand, my students learned to look for happy little things — from orange soda and hammock naps to the sound of roller skates on well-known sidewalks.

These days, my classroom is my home and my students, three younger and slightly more demanding little ones. But I still have the same copy of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, its binding now completely torn and several pages loose and patched together with tape. While I still love to flip through the book and be reminded of happiness that exists in things I may have overlooked, I find making new lists today, patching together the hidden gifts in motherhood that make the hard times well worth it. Our list is nowhere near 14,000 things, of course. But it's growing steadily, and we're only six years in.

allParenting Kelle Hampton 14000 things collage

A mother's not-quite-14,000 things to be happy about:

  • When you’re sitting on the floor and they back up to sit in your lap
  • “Hold you” instead of “Hold me”
  • Car seat smiles visible from the rear view mirror
  • Almost too-small footie jammies
  • “Pasketti”
  • Getting to leave a boring event because, you know — the baby
  • Going to pack a diaper bag but deciding to wing it instead
  • Settling on a name and confidently writing it on the birth certificate
  • "How many more days ‘til my birthday?"
  • Wobbly first stepsbaby in hospital receiving blanket and cap
  • Baggy tights that bunch up like elephant skin above patent leather Mary Janes
  • Lips that suck while they sleep
  • Those four little dimples underneath four pudgy fingers
  • Hospital receiving blankets
  • When they rob your lipstick from your makeup case and use it without your help
  • Mini saltwater sandals
  • A clean high chair tray
  • Hearing them babble in their crib when they’re alone in their room
  • Seeing the tiny diaper and stretchy hat laid out for your baby while you’re still in labor
  • Graduating from suspension liquid Tylenol to chewables
  • Mother’s Day cards with misspelled words in all caps
  • When they clutch your hair while they fall asleep
  • Colorful kid Band-Aids
  • Lovies
  • Believing in Santa again
  • Imaginary friends
  • The smell of Cheeriospile of cherrios
  • Finding a crumb-covered diaper at the bottom of your purse when you thought you were going to be forced to make one with a towel and duct tape
  • Saying “my son” and “my daughter”
  • Water beads on their eyelashes during a bath
  • When they hold your finger while they sleep
  • Answering the question, “Which one is yours?” at a recital/soccer game/school play with a giant smile, a pointing gesture and “that one, right there”
  • Playdate moms who bring you coffee without asking
  • Hearing “Miss Kelle” from my daughter’s friends
  • Pat the Bunny books
  • Old-fashioned bonnets
  • When you’re holding them face-out and they turn their head practically upside down to look up at you
  • Nailing a ponytail with “no bumps”
  • Babies in all white
  • The Christmas when they get a new bike
  • Mixed-up pronouns: “Him looking at me”
  • Kindergarten backpacks that swallow them wholetoddler crayons
  • Chunky crayons
  • Being away from your child and finding their sock/pacifier, Polly Pocket doll in your purse
  • Answering “Mommy?” with “I’m right here”
  • Singing “Blackbird” while swaying them to sleep
  • That first smile when you walk in after their nap
  • Hearing them say “Find me” from their super-secret hiding spot (hiding their face behind their hands)
  • Catching yourself swaying back and forth when you’re not holding a baby
  • Taking scooters to the park
  • The way their skin smells like outdoors after a long summer day
  • A bundle of dandelions delivered as if they were an expensive bouquet
  • Tippy toes to reach the drinking fountainbaby girl with a ruffled bottom
  • Ruffle butts
  • When they clomp around the house in your shoes
  • The way it feels to swear when you step on a Lego
  • Bubble bath Santa beards
  • Goodnight Moon
  • The original Burt’s Bees Baby Buttermilk scent
  • Thigh chub — theirs, of course
  • The slump — when they finally fall asleep in your arms and you know it just from the weight of their bodies
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider motions
  • Talks about kindness with your kindergartener and feeling them “get it”
  • When they reach out to hold your hand when you thought they were over it

Our list expands every year with new experiences and new perspective. Surely, we'll make 14,000 someday. Do you have any of your own you'd like to add to our list? Do share!

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