Climbing days are simply better than book-school days. We kinda forgot this close to us place was here, but now have been back and forth to enjoy it several times in the last couple weeks of hanging on fall. I’ve trusted in the benefits of risky play for my kids for a lot of years now, but sometimes my breath still catches as they climb, the shout to be cautious falling silent just as it is about to be shouted out.
Not that book school isn’t important, but my kids sure do learn a lot on these rocks, as well as in open fields and along riverbanks and up in tall pine trees on the back corner of our in town lot. I need my kids to have literacy and numeracy and I mostly use books and games to teach them those things, but most of the truly important stuff is taught while climbing something.
Trusting yourself is harder to learn from a book. Listening to the cues in your body and from the world around you is more difficult when staring at a screen. Building confidence in your own abilities is just not the same when you weigh math facts against knowing where to put your foot so you don’t slip down a rock wall.
So often I hear people state how learning can only happen in a classroom or can only come from a teacher. Others say that learning can happen in structured activities outdoors, but the child will need to be led or the activity facilitated. I want to just stop with this; Learning happens. It does not depend on me, or you, or us. It simply happens. There is no more needed in that sentence.
I write this down as a reflection for the days when kids need naps more than fractions or snowball fights more than sign language. The days when I doubt what I’m doing here, I will look back and remember that my kids are learning. That they are learning exactly what they need for their lives at this moment and for who they will grow into.
Look at me trusting myself a teensy bit. I must’ve learned that up on that rock pile with my babies.
This may be the last mudpie…and not only for this season. A second Summer in November and an injured ankle gave me the pause and grace to notice this moment for what it is. My baby is six, there may be more mudpies, but this is one of the last for her. I’m thankful that I was able stand on the deck quietly, letting her be little for a little while longer. I wish for her a long life of muddy knees and dirt under her fingernails. Tangled hair and lack of care over it. Mostly, that the joy remains all the days of her life.
A couple of days ago now, I fell in the Mississippi River. Thankfully there is no photographic evidence of this event. It was a hard fall on rocks that bruised my shins and knees and ankles. It hurt. I wanted to sit down and cry, mostly from the physical pain, but also just to release all of the emotion that I’ve been regulating inside my body for so many days. I didn’t cry though, instead I walked up and down the river with my three littles, letting the cool Summer water ease the ache I could feel forming in my body.
I’m writing this not because I want you to feel bad for me, but because I’ve been writing a lot about how quickly my littles are growing and how much I’m trying to not skip over any of the days with them. Which maybe makes you think my life is easy and always fun. Hear me when I say that I would’ve skipped this fall had I known it was coming, but I would’ve missed a lot of good had I done that. Like tiny arms hugging me as I stumbled up and out of the water, childrens voices asking if I was okay and what help did I need.
I fell because a small girl was holding both of my hands and when she slipped I righted her at the expense of my own balance. I am glad that she didn’t fall, it would’ve been harder for her to have a good day if she were banged up and frightened, but it was difficult for me not to blame her, to not be upset that I was sopping wet and hurt. This is a part of my mothering as well, not just recognizing that they won’t be small forever and joining them in their everyday, but sacrificing myself over and over again to improve their experience, their lives. In big ways and small.
My fall was a small sacrifice for sure, but it was a big reminder to me that there will be harder days to come. Not everyday will find the beauty in the legos and leaves scattered on the living room floor. (Check out my Facebook page if you missed that photo.)
When we got back home the dog drug her leash across the front of my ankle, giving me a rope burn. It didn’t really hurt, but I cried. Big gasping tears, so much that I had to go inside and calm down. This morning my teensy said; “Momma, that was the first time I saw you cry big…”, this is untrue, I have let tears slip down my cheeks in front of my kids more times than I can count, but I am glad that she saw this time, and that she was aware of the hurt behind the tears. So that she would know it’s always okay to cry, and that it’s often good to keep enjoying the day, even though you are hurting.
In the days since I fell I have been sore. My shin is bruised deep and throbs when I take even gentle steps. It has slowed me down even more than my already leisurely pace. The teensy said something like; “you prob’ly shouldn’t do any work for a few days momma…”. Yes tinygirl. Yes, you’re right, of course. Though the work still needs doing. The littles still need caring for, raising up… Yesterday I snuggled into our camper bed with a sleeping tiny, we rested hard and long, listening to the wind outside in the oaks. It was enough, just what was needed and nothing more.
Today I drug my over-tired, crabby, mopey self over to the rink by our house. The kids needed to move and I know the temps are dropping so I forced myself to go.
You just never can tell where you might find your smile…
Sometimes you simply must do the thing so that you don’t succumb to the dark place bubbling inside of you.
This day it was necessary for me to take the sleep-deprived, frozen, close to angry version of myself and lace up skates. Without this excursion I would have curled up under the covers and cried, not even kidding a little.
The ice was good, the shadows deep, the sunlight filtered, the air just cold enough. Our laughter was loud.
My time outdoors is short in winter, but today it was good, today I was thankful for clear ice and sharp skates. I’m a smidge worried about the cold ahead and how hard it’s going to hit me, maybe skating will help. I’ll at least hope that it does.
Peace in the cold is a good thing to find. For a few minutes today, out in the cold, it wasn’t really so bad being “stuck” in this place. It was almost joyful, maybe even fun.
The sea has long called to me. Most don’t understand this call as I was born and raised about as far as one could be from any ocean. Yet I feel the pull of the tide deep in my soul. I listen to the waves crash in my head as I steal the quiet of mornings. I feel the vastness of the ocean when I close my eyes on the day. Somehow the Lord saw fit to put this longing in me. I can’t see where else it would have come from. This is a different, a deeper desire than the one that calls me off down dirt roads and toward far off sunsets. A more plaintive whisper in my very heart. I hear it and I wait.
A person can not just set off to the sea when there are obligations and responsibilities; children and bills and chores…can she? We did just that for a brief moment in time. I can not recount here my entire journey to my heart, for it is long and vulnerable, and not quite “wordy” enough. More of it is felt than spoken, really. Over the next string of days I do hope to lock the thoughts down on paper, if only for myself. Some I’ll share, others will be the whispers that take me back one day to that forgotten place inside my own spirit. Set down in pencil and ink as a reminder that I am more than…than what…?
The waves were more powerful than I had recalled. As I stood on the shore watching swells crash over my children, seeing their small bodies submerged by the power of the ocean. I was at once in awe and yet fearful. This is something I had long wanted; babes at the sea, splashing, swimming, giggling. I had wanted to give them the power of a wave, the quiet of low-tide, the beauty of the sun over the water.
I had wanted to drum the sound of the water into their hearts, had prayed that they would feel the pull of a place like this in their subconscious. I can not guarantee that they will long for it, live for it, run after it (or any other thing), but I can give them the experience at the shoreline. Can fill their cups to brimming over with tidal waters. This trip was a start, was a drop in the bucket.
I allowed the ocean to speak deeply to my children and I can only pray that the voice of it will not diminish as they grow. That if not the call of the waves than the cries of their own hearts will be loud and forceful. That through the power and wonder of the sea, they can relate their desires. I have watched them sleep on this adventure, seen their sun-kissed faces as they rest, the joy spread wide from their hearts. I have brought them to the type of place I could call home, a place I am my truest self and I have given it to them. I have kept nothing back. Yet I know it was only a vacation, an adventure, a respite. They see it as such and I fear that if it is only this then it will not have been enough.
How could a few days ever be enough?
I have given them a taste though. At this time it is what I can give. Who can say how the weeks and months and years ahead will unfold? We try to craft our future, jot outlines of plans, make a way to get what I want. I know though, in that deepest place, that I am not in control. Proverbs 19:21 is familiar to me; “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”. Honestly I’ll keep scheming, keep asking, keep planning for what I want from this life, for the lives of my children. I’ll seek that place where my want and His Will intersect. I trust that the place exists and that I will be made aware of it as I come upon it.
This day I will look for the guideposts which must be along my path. The signs and signals which will direct me in the way I should go, the way that I should lead them. Optimistically these paths will cut close to the water, easily and with deep crying out to us. We will not have to stretch to see the way they will fulfill a longing. More so, I will trust that the Lord wants good for me and that I can live that good by the sea…or not. Place matters, but not so much as well, this I’ve come to know over years spent out of place.
I circle back to the beginning. If this desire for the sea is not from the Lord than from where has it come? If He put a desire in me which is this strong I can trust that He will fulfill that desire in the way that only He can. I know this to be true. I will not force it or overly strive for it, but I will actively work toward my own goals seeking His will for me as I go along.