One of the greatest moments of my parenting career occurred today. One of those moments that reminds me what miracles my children are.

I’ll start from the beginning. My children have taken turns throwing up the past few days so there’s been very little sleep for anyone. So I was already in fully grumpy Dad mode. I’m not defending myself. Just throwing it out there.

But now everyone’s feeling better but I woke up a few minutes later than I normally do and called upstairs to the girls and the boy to come down. Then I began making breakfast and preparing lunch. Every morning at the same time I think to myself that if I were a better parent I’d prepare lunches the night before. But I never do.

After a few minutes I realize nobody’s come down so I dart up the stairs and call them with urgency from their doorways. “Let’s go guys. Move it.”

So now everyone’s late. My seven year old stumbles down and it turns out she slept in her school uniform and it looks it. She explains, “I wanted to be the first to be ready this morning so I slept in my school uniform.” Oh no. I looked around but her other jumper was dirtier and more wrinkled than the one she’s got on.

They all wobble into the bathroom where I hear the complaining that’s probably inevitable with four tired children crowded around one sink. Somebody pushed me!!!!!! She didn’t even say thank you!!!!!!!! He spit right near my hand!!!!!

I go in and break up the ruckus and rush them off to the breakfast table where I throw pancakes in front of them. The four year old proceeds to fill up his plate with syrup. I’m not kidding you when I say he filled it up. The ten year old screamed as if a tidal wave of syrup were threatening to wash the entire house away.

The eight year old spilled her milk. The baby repeated everything anyone said at the table and only stopped to breath and say “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”

I’ve had it. I shoo everyone from the table to get dressed. The ten year old is still in full morning zombie mode so I have to keep reminding her to keep buttoning her shirt. The eight year old cries when I brush her hair. And the four year old can’t find his shoes but continues looking around at the walls as if maybe his shoes might come floating into the room if he just looked confused enough.

I’m now convinced I have the worst kids in the world. I run outside to warm up the car and the four year old follows me in his socks and then falls on an ice patch in the driveway. Now he’s crying. I start the van, pick up the boy, and come back in the house and the two year old it seems has decided to take a dip in the Olympic sized syrup pool created earlier by the four year old. She’s got it all over her. I’m trying to imagine how it happened but the best scenario I can come up with is she reached onto the table, pushed the lip of the plate down, creating a catapult of syrup onto herself and the kitchen floor.

I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I get everyone ready and put them in the van. I announce that they’ll be no talking on this trip to school. None. Everyone just sit and think how bad they were this morning and how they can improve themselves by the time I pick them up from school. And I tell the ten year old that as she’s the oldest I’m especially disappointed in her. Why? I don’t even know why. I know as the words are coming out of my mouth that they’re the stupidest words uttered publicly since Tom Cruise’s last interview.

As I’m driving the winter sun is shining right in my face slowing traffic so I’m squinting and holding my hand in front of my face and traveling haltingly. I see in the rearview mirror the baby is moving her face around and scrunching her face from the sun as well. I decide to take a side road to make up for lost time and what happens? I get caught at the longest traffic light in the world.

While sitting there exasperated I turned around to look at the children in the rear view mirror and I see it. There’s the ten year old extending her hand out in front of the baby’s face and blocking the sun for her. She wasn’t bringing attention to herself for it. She was just doing it to protect her little baby sister from the sun. Because that’s what she does. It’s who she is.

And that was it. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say it was one of the high points of my parenting career. To know that I’m raising a little girl who holds her hand out over the baby’s face is just the most wonderful feeling. I was so proud of her. And I told her so.

Suddenly all of the children wanted to block the sun from the baby’s face so now the baby’s got hands all over her face, including the four year old who can only reach the top of the baby’s messy syrupy hair from the back seat. The baby starts grabbing at all these hands and everyone starts laughing – even the grump in the driver’s seat.

When I picked the kids up from school the baby was asking for everyone’s hands again even though the sun was behind us. And they all reached out for her.