By the number of nights you are last to fall asleep, waiting until you hear gentle snores float along the hallway. Or by the number of mornings you are first to wake, tiptoeing downstairs to turn on the heater and warm up the house before breakfast.
By the tears dried, or arnica applied, by kisses or bedtime stories. By the number of times you’ve toweled wet hair, or the number of tiny toenails snipped, holding your breath in case you nip. Do you count bath times and birthdays, or the number of little-boy boogers you’ve had wiped on your skirt?
Some numbers are too big to even contemplate. The pears puréed and apples sliced, the crusts cut off, tomatoes diced. The dishes stacked and sheets washed. The sticky, spreading spills mopped. The endless names, dates, parties, appointments…
How many crumbs have you vacuumed up? How many bottles of bubble mix have you blown away on the breeze? How many toy cars have you fixed with the tiniest dab of superglue? How many chocolate buttons have you administered as bribery? How many monsters and crocodiles have you chased away from under the bed? How many out-of-focus shots did you take before finally capturing that one perfect photo? How many cold park benches have you sat on? How many thank you cards have you written on behalf of someone so small they can’t yet hold a pen? How many cups of tea have sat, full, on the sideboard? How many miniature glow stars have you stuck to a bedroom ceiling? How many times have you shaken glitter off your pillow, with no idea where it came from? How many times can you read The Tiger Who Came to Tea without wanting to hurl it out of a window? How many sharp little Lego bricks have you stood on barefoot? How many times have you shouted, Remember to flush? How many pockets does a handbag need to hold all those snacks and sun hats, toys and tissues?
None of those numbers are the right ones, really.
Motherhood has no KPIs. But every day feels like a performance review. So we have to come up with something.
I like to count the warm, crumpled daisies that I’ve had pressed into my palm. The shells that I’ve rescued from trouser pockets. The crayon rainbows taped to the wall.