It’s easy to feel like a good parent on the days when everything goes right, when your toddler naps, when all of the games you play are fun, when dinner and your home improvement projects all turn out just the way you wanted to, the first time around.

This was not one of those days.

I cried, and my tears fell onto my shirt. My daughter, the object of both my love and frustration at that moment, had nearly grated her fingers, carried off the cheese I needed for biscuits, ignored at least three sets of instructions, and then methodically picked the blooms off of a stem of silk lily-of-the-valleys. To add to the mix, there was crying on her part, foot stomping, and general caterwauling. And that was just in a three minute span.

She looked up at me, eyes wide. “Are you sad?”

“Yes,” I said, and she hugged me.

“I’m sorry you’re upset,” she told me. I felt better – unprompted kindness does that – and told her I was going to put some water on my face.

She took two wooden utensils from the dish drain and went into the bathroom with me. Ugh – one more thing to have to wash again, to move, to put away. One more thing on top of one more thing.

She climbed onto her stool, stuck one utensil under the faucet, and turned on the water. Water trickled over the face of the wooden spatula, then she turned the water off, stepped off her stool, and started walking towards me, carefully holding the spatula. The water dripped off onto the floor, leaving both the spatula and the floor a little wet. One more thing to wipe up. “I’ll wet your face,” she said. “Take off your glasses.” (Of course, from her, that statement sounds like this: “Take ozh your gwasses.” Obediently, I did, and she gently ran the damp face of her utensil over mine, the curve of its face matching the curve of mine, and wet my face for me.

Never, I think, has something like a wooden spoon been put to kinder, gentler use. I won’t mind washing those again; I won’t mind washing those again at all.