I work a part-time job with a local business that allows me the privilege to stay home with my kids during the day. It's not a bad arrangement. I get time away from my offspring (which helps me maintain my frail grasp on sanity), and I get money in exchange for the favor.
"What did you make this year?" he asked me.
Some people might think that one (very low) number in box number one of the W2 form sums up all of my contributions to society for the year 2014 as well as my general worth as a human being.
Those people would be wrong.
What did I make this year?
I made beds. I made dinner. I made birthday cakes and Christmas cookies and picnic lunches for the park. I made trips to the grocery store and to school awards banquets and to Grandma's house.
I made art projects and science projects and lots and lots of messes with the kids. I made them practice long division and study American History and read wonderful books. I made them write in journals and go to museums and watch documentaries on Netflix.
I made my children clean their rooms and eat their vegetables and take out the trash. I made them mind their manners, reminding them to say "please" and "thank you". I made them play outside, even when they didn't want to. I made them apologize when necessary. I made them write letters and use proper punctuation and look up spelling words in the dictionary.
I made time to laugh and play games and swing on the swings, to swim in the ocean, to lay in the sun and watch the figures of cottony clouds morph and shift, to look for recognizable shapes with my children. I made time to walk in the woods, to skip rocks in the river, to watch birds and squirrels and the raccoon family that likes to steal cat food from the front porch dish. My youngest named them. I made time to listen to her stories.
We made a garden together. We watched things grow, things we planted and tended with our own human hands, and we picked them and ate them, sometimes straight off the vine.
I made conversation, taking time to talk through big issues like teen pregnancy and racial prejudice and the positive and negative aspects of feminism, stretching my children to think for themselves, to ponder the big questions most people push aside. I made myself listen more than I talk, marveling in the way their brains work and being proud of the adults my children are so fast becoming.
They are good people. Honest. Hard-working. Giving. Polite. This year I watched them give of their time and their physical energy and money that they earned all on their own to people who needed their help... I didn't make them do that, but they are generous and kind... maybe somewhere along the way I had a hand in creating that.
I made more than a living last year, more than that sum of money printed on official tax documents, the amount that lumps me into tax brackets and social categories.
I made a life. A life that has nothing to do with money. A life full of rich experiences and profound satisfaction.
And in being a mother, I helped make the future. I'm making human beings... pretty darned good ones from what I can tell. One day we'll hand off this world to the care of our children. I'm not worried.
In your face, tiny number on my W2 form. I made more than can be measured.