What My Children Will Remember

A newborn asleep in my arms. A three-year-old playing at my feet and talking, talking, talking endlessly as he does. I love my children but they aren’t always the best company. I crave conversation and connection—real words with actual grownups.

I feed my daughter with one hand and scroll ad infinitum through my phone with the other. Though I’m endlessly busy at home, I’m bored at the same time. My hands are busy but my heart and mind aren’t engaged in the tasks at hand—changing diapers, cleaning bottles, filling sippy cups, and stacking blocks. My phone becomes an outlet as my heart and mind seek connection with adults and stories beyond the day to day routine of raising a family.IMG_20170822_104305_617But already, little as they are, my children notice my distraction and lack of engagement with their own words and activities. I look away from my phone to find my daughter’s eyes locked on me and I wonder what I’ve missed during this first month of her life while my eyes lingered a little too long and longingly at pretty pictures on Instagram. My son asks a million questions and eventually gets frustrated at my obviously not listening grunts and mmm hmms to his words and stories. He wants me to look up at him. He wants me to get down on the floor and play. He wants me to see him and not just what’s happening on my phone.IMG_20170717_145445_984It’s hard, this busy boredom. This always having more to do and needs to meet than I can possibly manage and yet being lonely and mentally stagnant all the while my hands are full and my feet are moving.

Sometimes I wonder what my children will remember about me when they think back to childhood. What will stand out in their mind from our days together here at home? Will they remember me loving on them and the games we played? Will they hold onto climbing into my lap with a book and reading a story together or the sunny days outside playing in the yard and dirt? Or will they mostly remember me on my phone, looking down and muttering delayed and distracted responses to their words and questions?IMG_20170717_092642_395I think about the things I want my children to love—being outside, reading, exploring, imagining and telling stories. And then I wonder how well they’re learning such things from my living example. How often do I go outside or pick up a book instead of my phone? How often do I explore or tell them a story rather than turning on Netflix for some easy entertainment?

I hate the answer. I’m embarrassed by the truth.

My children are watching, learning, and becoming and there’s no going back on the time already spent. I know I can (and must) do better so I started setting my phone down and picking a book up instead. How I’ve forgotten the pleasure of reading. The words of C.S Lewis pour off the page and I’m mesmerized by his words. My son sees me reading and wants to know what the words say so I read out loud. He brings me story books and we sit and read together.IMG_20170717_145652_951Outside on the porch, I feel the breeze swirling around me, baby snuggled against my chest. My son digs in the dirt, still talking endlessly. I can hear the birds, feel the warmth of sunshine on my skin. Since when was my own backyard so magical, peaceful, and quiet? I’d forgotten how quiet life actually is when you turn off the noise—the phone notifications, the TV, the endless searching for entertainment.

It’s hard sometimes, spending most of my time with little people who can barely communicate when I long for meaningful conversation and connection. But I think I’m starting to realize my children long for those things too—the conversation and connection—and they long for it with me. My son has stories to tell, boy does he. My daughter studies my face, eyes locked on me regardless of whether my gaze is on her or my phone.

These are the days they’ll remember and how they remember them is very much up to me and the example I set.

Winter Bloom

 

dsc_1313

“You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

Ruth Chou Simons (@gracelaced.com)

I read these words on instragam recently and have been turning them over in my heart and mind ever since: “You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

If there is a single recurring theme in what I write about it’s this: Seasons–both the seasons in nature changing slowly one into the other and the seasons of life doing the same.

img_20161123_100605.jpgI have felt lately that I’m in a rather wintry season of life–one in which there is little color or life on the surface though I know in my heart there is much going on in the roots and soul and parts of life mostly unseen. img_20161017_073043949.jpgI am a momma and a homemaker and my days are spent mostly at home doing work I know matters but presently have little to show for. Someday I will look back and see these days with better clarity and deeper appreciation; I know that.

But today I see the years stretching out before me and I know I have a long time to wait before there are blooms in the work I now do.

dsc_1356Like winter, life and growth are there, quietly beneath the surface in the roots and leaves working away silently until new life and color are revealed in spring.

dsc_1265Someday I will see the fruit of my labor; I believe that. I believe when my grown children stand around me and take off for life on their own I will be proud of how they’ve grown and blossomed and I will not regret the years spent quietly working away on blooms not yet seen.

But these are long days even if the years are short.

dsc_1368dsc_1367Winter sprinkled across our little New England home last week in frost and snow glittering in the morning light. I wrapped Roman in every layer of winter clothes a two-year old can reasonably move in and together we trekked outside to chase the light and magic at our door.

dsc_1354Winter is not my favorite but this frosty magic pulls me out into the cold every time. I couldn’t help but notice how completely nature then reflected what has been growing in my heart–this lesson about life beneath the surface when no blooms are seen.

img_20161115_151323.jpgimg_20161209_111947.jpgThe world looks dead and done but a touch of frost and morning light sets the world on fire and for a fleeting moment we see glimpses of the new life that is to come.

Winter will pass and melt away as any dark season of life does and on the other side we will see what has been happening beneath the surface all along–all the work and waiting will open into long-awaited blooms at last.

dsc_1284dsc_1272dsc_1274But for today, during winter, I have to take heart and remember this is but a season–both in life and nature.

Winter will pass and these long days of motherhood will grow and add up to something bright and blooming too. There is growth and life even if hidden quietly in the heart and soul and not yet seen in the fruit of our hands.

dsc_1324

Setting the Tone at Home

Roman in windowcrop

The other day I lay on the couch with my baby boy asleep on my chest. I have watched the seasons change and the world go by my living room window holding Roman there while he naps. The hot, sticky summer yielded to fall. Fall shed her gold and red robe of leaves and bowed to winter. Winter yields to no one. Spring is in hiding and I’m afraid, may never have the courage to stand in winter’s stubborn way.
Winter can be beautiful too, occasionally. That day the wind was blowing hard and the clouds were light and billowy and rolling end over end on their way out of town. The sky was deep-sea blue and the sun broke through. But still the snow fell—fell out of nowhere, fell in the sunshine and looked like glittering rain flitting through the light. It was magical, the sunlight and snow and fluffy fast clouds.

That day I drank my coffee hot and foamy instead of cold and dense. I sat and read and jotted some thoughts down on paper. I looked at my son and noticed his one-toothed smile and perfect little giggle.
I tell you all this because I’ve realized something lately: I’m usually too busy and distracted to notice the beauty all around me. Often, I have the living room blinds closed to keep the glare of the sun off the TV and I sit on the couch looking in at Netflix and housework instead of out at nature.

But that day was different. That day I decided to be still and quiet. I turned the TV off and put my phone down. I held my boy and lay there consciously watching the snow and clouds dance outside my window. I realized that I, more than anyone or anything else, set the tone in my home. I stay home full-time which means all day every day I am the one who determines how much TV, media, and noise is allowed in our house. And with that decision, I determine what my son is exposed to in the way of noise and distractions.

Already I’m an example to him and when I sit holding him with the TV on in the background while I scroll through endless feeds on my phone, I’m teaching him the art of distraction rather than of mindful concentration. I’m teaching him to fill his life with noise and motion rather than stillness and silence. What I do now is what I’m teaching him to do later.

If I want him to know how to sit still and play quietly, I need to show him by my actions how those things are done. If I want him to read and love stories, I need to read books myself and read to him. If I want him to love nature and spending more time playing outside than in, then I need to take him outside and show him what a beautifully intriguing world we live in. Just like I can’t eat junk food in front of him all day and expect him to love healthy food, so I can’t fill his environment with noise and distractions and expect him to want anything else.

10967813_10152645679501517_1705059145_n{Reading Anne of Green Gables together}

Sometimes the quiet drives me crazy when I’m home alone all day but I’m learning to be careful about my own need for noise and accidentally instilling that same need in my son. As a mom it’s my responsibility to teach and lead by example and that often means working on my own bad habits and growing myself into the same kind of person I would like my children to be; I can’t have expectations for them that I don’t live up to myself.

This is not just for my baby either; it’s benefited me as well. I’m enjoying the quiet and the peaceful feel our home has when it’s not filled with all the flashing lights and sounds of TV. I’m enjoying the things I notice and can concentrate on when I look away from my phone and at the world and people around me instead. I by no means think all TV and social media are bad, I’m just starting to recognize the ways I’m abusing good things and setting a bad example in the process. I’m learning to love the quiet and to live in that quiet rather than automatically drowning out my thoughts with background noise.

Good living takes discipline. It takes discipline and forethought to eat healthy meals. It takes discipline to sit down and read or to tap out words. It takes discipline to build strong, happy, healthy relationships. And I’m learning too that it takes discipline to manage the noise and distractions that come with our modern way of life, with cell phones and social media.

Every day I have a choice and an opportunity with the way I live, the home I build, the example I set. Each day is a new chance and building block but eventually those blocks add up from a foundation to a structure—so I must ask, what am I building today with this block? What will this house look like and how will I build and grow the people in it? It’s up to me, every day, one day at a time…and every single day and block counts towards the final structure.