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.
Last week I came here and wrote a smidge about our current Summer adventure. How it had slowed us even more than before and how it has me wondering if I’m doing this whole thing right. I want to use the opportunity to be home with my littles to it’s fullest advantage, but not take advantage of the opportunity either.
My sweet husband takes incredibly good care of us, sacrifices and gives pretty selflessly. While the children and I run at the track and splash at the beach and read for hours each day, he is at work. On his days off he squeezes in as much as he can and often doesn’t understand how we can do everything so slowly. I know it makes him a little bonkers when we don’t appreciate how limited his time is. This is something that I need to work on. Not our lack of speed, but being able to move at his pace when he needs us to.
While I do want my sweet man to be home with us more, to be able to go on more adventures, and to learn to slow down I don’t really know how to make that happen. Also, I don’t know that he really wants to spend that much uninterrupted time with us. So I continue to walk slow, to make “less” and “small” good, to sit with him in his own time and space. I do this because I want him to know how grateful I am that he has gifted me (and the children) with this really, really good life.
Not a lot of people would stay at an imperfect fit of a job “just” because it provides well. Not a lot of people would take all of the traveling options sent their way simply because their love wants to wander with her deepest heart. Not a lot of people…but my person. He is a good man.
This whole piece about him needing to work and working at a job that is maybe not his first choice -even though he is extremely good at what he does- makes me think about the littles and our older kids too. What will his sacrifice provide long term? Are our biggest kids following their heart’s desires? Are they willing to live with less to do what makes them shine? Or will they one day be like him? Feeling somewhat stuck?
Those slow littles…will they some day be able to pull a career out of the blue, clear sky that fits their personal speed? Will they struggle at a job that is a poor fit? Will having had this childhood, full of time to know themselves, lead their life choices to be uncompromising, certain, confident? Or will it make “real life” harsh?
They are still small, and no one can say for sure what is to come. This I know with certainty, but I prefer to hope. Hope that time spent in books builds their desire to always learn and be imaginative. Hope that time spent in wandering woods builds a sense of, and desire for, adventure. Hope that being allowed to follow their interests will inspire them to try all of the things and see what sticks.
My first ever post here was about what I want for them and those words ring truer today than ever before. By giving them the time to grow and learn as they naturally would I believe that they will be better able to discern the choices they’ll need to make as they grow. I trust that by slowing down they will be more in tune with their inner rhythms. This all seems overly optimistic, I know.
I’ll also add here that my teeny is not so much keen on my “slow”. She pushes hard and fast from the moment she wakes until the last minute of the day. She has so much that she wants to do, so much to see, so many places to go. Perhaps this is just a factor of her age, fours and fives aren’t really known for their chill. I wonder though if she will follow this faster current and if she’ll be the one to drag the rest of us after her. She certainly has the determination to do so. I also wonder if we will let her do it or if the other children will fight her on this faster pace…they certainly have the determination to do it.
Ultimately, I know that I dont get to say what the kids will do or be. I know they are not really mine in that sense. They are already on their own path. For now it runs parallel to mine, or rather, it continually intersects mine. Sometimes they walk beside, other times they cross over, often they lead, occasionally they follow. I see the gift it is that I get to walk with them at all.
This was quite a ramble friends, I thank you if you made it this far. I suppose what I’m saying is that I want for all of my people to be true to themselves, and that I want to help them on that journey so much as I can. What is it you hope for your children, your spouse, your best-of-friends? How are you actively working toward that goal today? After spending a few days in the writing of this post I can see some places where I am not being as supportive as I should be. There is more that I can do. I’ll put more thought into that as these closer-to-Summer days unfold slow and long. Perhaps after some thought I’ll come back here with an update.
For today? Someone should go check on my flower beds…I imagine the peonies are gorgeous just now.
I’ve been thinking about how I will allow my children to be more independent in their decision making. Since they were small, we have allowed quite a bit of freedom. Letting them jump in the puddles and then dealing with cold, wet feet has always been the best way for them to learn not to jump in puddles with tennis-shoes on. My sweet husband calls this method the “experiential” manner of parenting. I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but while he teases me with it from time to time, I think it is the best way to describe my overall philosophy for life. How will we learn if we do not experience?
Still, my ten-year-old is getting to a point in life where learning through doing can cost her more than just wet feet. I wonder how to provide all of the right activities for her to live her bigger-girl life without overly harsh consequences? Too much freedom given in the teen years can lead to all sorts of unchangeable life situations, choices that will need to be lived through for years to come, not just an afternoon. Yet I know that this child learns best by living, by putting her truest self out there and trying it out in the real world. I have no answers for these questions this morning, we will walk along this path together, hopefully the puddles won’t be too deep for awhile yet and we figure out the necessary boundaries as we go.
I also have been watching my littler kids, my husband and I give them a lot of space to learn by trying things out, but these two youngest kids are around a lot of other peoples parents, how do I let them think for themselves when so many other mommas don’t give their own kids the freedoms we allow? How do I respect other parents’ boundaries, while still letting my kids respect their own? I know that I need to be more vocal, explaining to my mom-friends the “why” behind the seemingly crazy things I “permit” my children to choose. I forget that our way is what has worked best for our family and, while I don’t need to force it on anyone else, I do need to respect it even in situations where other kids might not be allowed to do the things my kids choose to do.
If I don’t respect the guidelines that I show my kids one on one when we are in a group situation, it sends a mixed message and my kid may start to question her body or brain. That is something that will come back to bite me when we are climbing or on an unfamiliar trail and they suddenly question themselves in a moment of fear. I know that by letting them climb out as far as they feel safe, by letting them jump off the highest wall they are comfortable on, by simply allowing them to choose to wear a coat or not, they are learning that their choices matter. More than that they are learning that they have power over their own choice. They also see that they are capable, sometimes they fall, sometimes they flail, sometimes they come down a step first, but because we are there to bandage the scrapes and encourage the efforts, they trust themselves.
I suppose that is how I’m hoping to make it through the teen years with grace this time. We have allowed, permitted, encouraged even, this child to listen to her body. To trust her gut, to choose what is best for her through all of her “little” years. Unconsciously, by supporting her in these small things we have encouraged her to do the same with the big things to come. Hopefully she has failed enough and dealt with unpleasant consequences enough times to have those lessons to draw from as she matures. Ideally, she will have so much faith in her own body and brain that she will not fall to pressures or fail to be true to herself.
And so we continue. This day I will allow my eight-year-old to wear shorts…in January…in Minnesota…because that is his choice and he has yet to regret it, though I can’t look at him some days without shivering. I will watch my tiny stomp out into the snow wearing dress shoes and be there holding the boots I suggested before we left the house if she chooses to admit that snow is cold when it melts into your shoes! (I know that she will not admit that, she is as stubborn as I am and she will deal with wet feet for as long as she is able, but next time? She’ll choose the boots from the start because she’ll remember.) I will explain myself better to the other moms that we interact with so that I don’t have kids who second guess themselves.
This is not always easy. I often try very hard to explain my “why” to my kids when I want them to do one thing and they are certain that their own way is best. It is hard to remember that cold fingers will not kill an otherwise healthy child when my own life experiences tell me to put on mittens. It is difficult to stop and see their independence growing when the way they want to be independent causes me to need to plan ahead more. I mean, you really can’t let kids be free to explore their world without remembering to pack a spare pair of clothes and a towel or two. I’m banking on this being best though, that as they grow up they will know themselves and have a wealth of their own experiences to draw from. Not just scary words that grown ups threatened them with.
While my confidence often lags behind what I know to be true in this area, I have decided to commit to advocating for them more vocally. If your family plans to meet up with mine on one of these mild winter days please be prepared. I will not be telling my kids they can’t eat snow because they’ll get too cold, that they can’t take their coat…and hoodie…and snow-pants off (insert eye-roll here). Because I trust that when they are cold they will put them back on. I will continue to let my kids climb the trees, stand on the ledges, and jump from the rocks. Whether we are with friends or not. Because I really, really do want them to hear their own inner voice whisper and they won’t be able to do that if I’m constantly screaming at them to “not”.
Join me won’t you? It takes only a few steps. Choose a day and pack the car with all of the things you might need, take the extra time to do this. Then let your kid choose. Shorts in winter? Sure, if you want (you can pack pants). Take a few steps out onto the thin ice at the bend in the creek? Yes (you can explain currents and how far is safe, you can have spare boots and socks in the backpack). Climb on the frozen, metal playground equipment? Yep. (Maybe put dry mittens on first though?) Life should be experienced friends, even at four-years-old.