It’s funny the days that stick out in my memory. For as amazing as it is to have a day go smoothly, to have kids that cooperate and are cheerful, to have time to accomplish things and maybe even time to rest…it’s usually the harder, stickier, challenging days that I remember. And it’s not because I look back on them bitterly. It’s usually because those are the days when the bright moments felt more meaningful. When the hugs and kisses between the tears and struggles gripped my heart a little tighter. When the lessons I learned were driven home with the kind of force that allows me to carry them far into the future.
This picture is from one of those days. It is a perfect representation of our life right now. I had pulled myself out of bed, fighting against the non-stop nausea that has accompanied my pregnancy with our third so far, and warmed up some leftovers for breakfast. Knowing the kids had to let out some energy, and that we’re all sick and tired of being summer’s hostage in the house, I filled a bin with some ice and water to make a trip outside bearable. I tossed in some cups and bowls from the kitchen, thinking woefully about the well-curated activities and beautifully crafted wooden toys I wished I had for them. The wave of heat that greeted me as I stepped out the door sent my mind spiraling on all the ways I hate where we live, how I wished my kids had trees and grass and cooler weather to run in. I laid a blanket on the filthy concrete in an attempt to keep their clothes clean (didn’t work) and sat nearby to supervise. My son, Teddy, was in mismatched shoes because he thinks it’s funny, indicating his budding independence and expanding opinions. My daughter, Evie, was wearing her brother’s shoes, because hers got left in the only car we have, which was with my husband at work.
They loved it. They ate ice cubes and poured from one container to another. They drank the freezing water and laughed as it dribbled down their chins and tummies, giving them goosebumps. As I sat nearby, sweating and grumbling, Teddy looked over at me with a smile and thanked me for the “super fun drink picnic.”
The problem isn’t with my circumstances. Are they difficult? Sure. But, honestly, the list of things that make my life easy is much more extensive than the list of things that make it hard. The problem is my lack of joy and perspective. I trick myself into thinking that I need a schedule and lesson plans and Montessori-style toys to give my kids meaningful play, but that isn’t true. I can be teaching them some of the greatest lessons I could hope to impart with a tub, some ice, and some plastic cups. I can be an example of finding joy in the mess. I can teach them to focus on the blessings and not the hardships. I can challenge their creativity and imagination…and my own…in finding ways to entertain ourselves in the heat.
I remember this morning often, when I’m tempted to give in to the satisfying self-pity that I struggle with. I’ve never gone to bed grumbling and woken to a well-stocked toy room, mild summer, and grand oak trees out front. The only thing my attitude does is make me miserable. A morning spent doing something I felt was mediocre at best was something Teddy and Evie felt was a huge treat. This kind of childlike joy and excitement in even small, mundane things is something that I am trying to learn how to emulate in my life. Thankfully, my kids are usually at the ready to show me how.