Most mornings, I put both kids in the car and drive up to Alex's daycare to drop him off, then turn around and come back to drop Penny off at her school. The whole process takes 45 or 50 minutes, with most of that time being spent in the car.
On the way up to daycare, the kids usually play together, with intermittent interruptions from me to threaten death, dismemberment, and loss of toys if they don't remember to use their Inside Voices.
On the way back, it's just me and Penny in the car, and you'd think it would be a good mother/daughter bonding time, except it doesn't work out that way. She usually asks for my phone so she can check on her dragons, and then all the energy that she'd had on the drive up just dissipates. She just sits and stares out the window. And I'm not at my most chipper in the mornings, either, so I don't work too hard to try to engage her.
Maybe I should, though, because we had this conversation this morning, more or less out of nowhere:
"Everyone at school says that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are just our parents."
A topic fraught with traps, and I haven't even had coffee yet. "Hm. Well, what do you think?"
"I'm not sure... But just in case, I'm going to keep acting like they're real."
"Just in case?" I wonder if some friend of hers has passed on a family rule along the lines of, if you don't believe in Santa, he doesn't bring you any presents.
"Yeah. I don't want Alex to find out. He might be like, 'Aw, man...' and then it wouldn't be fun for him."
Oh. Oh. And just like that, tears fill my eyes.
There are times when I wonder what the hell I think I'm doing as a parent. Times when the whole thing overwhelms me and leaves me nearly breathless with fear and the certainty that I'm doing something -- everything -- wrong.
But then, once in a while, I'm blinded by these flashes of brilliance, where one or the other or both of them together show me these fantastic qualities. They're happy. They're incredibly smart. They're enthusiastic and energetic. They're more than just a bit geeky. They're funny (if not always intentionally). They're kind and loving and loyal, and occasionally (like this morning) even thoughtful.
In short, they're becoming the sort of people I love to spend time with.
Could any parent ask for more?