It’s a rainy Labor Day weekend. And with millions evacuating their homes for drier, higher ground we aren’t complaining about our hike and swim being canceled.
My children welcome rain. They love splashing in the gutter that temporarily transforms into a raging river in front of our house, they love shaking our fragile young trees and causing an extra brief downpour on each other, they love collapsing at the kitchen counter and begging for hot chocolate and they love long lazy days playing with games and toys.
Yesterday afternoon I had collapsed with a rather lame novel as the kids prepared to play in the downpour. I took my book with me from room to room as we retrieved slickers and boots and snuck in a few paragraphs while making tinfoil boats. “Mom, come out and play with me.” pleaded Mary.
“C’mon, you used to play in the rain with us all the time.” Xander urged.
Oh, but I’m tired. Exhausted from a long week of back-to-school paperwork, new sports and music schedules, forgotten appointments, lots and lots of people(mostly at home) frustrated by my lack of organization. Too tired to play.
Then Erik threw the clincher, “You always played with Ben and Stefan when they were little.”
Raincoat on, I stepped out into the clear evening light. Mary called out orders to me as she skipped through the puddles. We raced tin-foil boots down the gutter until they became crushed silver balls. Her eyes sparkled in the filtered light and the mist curled her wispy hair into loose ringlets. Her red raincoat reached past her shorts and I marveled at her bare little legs and she ran and twirled at impossible speeds. Any moment, any moment she’ll slip and fall, but she never does.
Xander and Gabe are still in their church clothes, unhindered by rain gear they set up barriers around the neighbor’s garbage cans– damming up the water and then whoosh! a flood!
They are beautiful.
I did play with Ben, Stefan and Hans more when they were little. Unimpeded by school and sports and schedules we spent long hours at the park, digging in the sandbox, losing at Candyland, playing with wooden trains, Legos and Playmobil. And now, even when I find the time, I no longer have the patience for those long hours of pure frolic.
Xander’s first violin teacher once told me that she always like to teach the first or second child in the family because after that the mom gets burned out. I was a tad offended and swore I would never be a burned out mother. But in some ways I am.
After nearly 17 years of mothering I no longer look for new craft projects, I don’t make tissue paper flowers anymore and I certainly don’t encourage painting in the kitchen. I still read with my little ones but I’m not as concerned about when they too will learn to read. My times-table flashcards are missing half their contents and I haven’t bothered to replace them. And yes, I certainly don’t take violin practice as seriously as I once did. It’s been nice to have more time to dive onto my own interests, but I do, ahem, tend to get a bit obsessed. The season for truly taking the plunge on “the next stage” is coming but it’s not here yet.
So it’s good and bad. I celebrate the loss of my motherly competitive streak but mourn the effort I once put into play.
I’m making a resolution here. I have two short years before Mary starts first grade and Ben goes to college and then a mission. I’m making those years count. Send over your family fun ideas, share your sweet traditions, don’t let me descend into apathy and lame novels– help me be the mother I still need and want to be.
This theme sure is popular these days. It’s been on my mind non-stop, as I look back at the kids younger years and my interactions with them, and contrast that with now. Part of it was that they were home all day, so I kind of HAD to do more stuff of my own initiative. But the fact that I’m not doing as much of those crafty, interactive, “pure fun” memory-making things has been on my mind. And I’ve been mothering six years less than you have too…and only have nine years till my youngest is gone. So I’m feeling the pinch a bit now.
One of my favorite quotes by Anna Quinland is about her mothering:
“..but the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three on them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
I worry that in a way I’ve already “missed it”. Missed it by blogging, reading, traveling, sleeping, talking on the phone, writing, and just “living my own life”. It’s tricky to find the balance, huh.
You’re a fantastic mom Michelle. And I wish you’d put photos of aluminum foil shoes…I’ve never heard of them before!
My Friend Debra wrote a beautiful post today. Just thought I’d share it with you.
Boats! You made foil boats. I somehow read that word as “boots”, and then further morphed it into “shoes”. My bad!
I think all of us feel that “mother guilt” sometimes. I’m sure you do a lot more than you realize but those children sure know which buttons to push don’t they?
We don’t get any photos of you playing in the rain?
Beautiful, bittersweet post, Michelle. The balancing act seems to be one of the most difficult parts of being a mom.
I’m glad that you decided to go play in the rain. We all need to do more of that.(if not for our children, definitely for ourselves!)
I’ve been meaning to call you since I read this post this morning. What I wanted to tell you is that I think you are amazingly PLAYFUL with your children. I remember distinctly one summer afternoon at the pool that you were pretty much the only mom in the pool horsing around with the kids (I think you were giving some of my children piggy back rides — talk about mother guilt!!)
Your kids know how lucky they are to have a mom that isn’t afraid to get down and be silly.
This was a great post. I was especially fascinated by the violin teacher’s comment — I’m sure for the most part it’s quite true.
p.s. even though cancelling run seemed like the right thing to do on Monday, no I MISS you since we didn’t get to talk for an hour that morn!! xo
My p.s. made no sense because of the typos — sorry ’bout that! Going to bed now! : )
Amen + I hear you there! Sometimes I jump in there and go with the moment and sometimes I head for the chair with my book.
We’re also feeling the shortening of time until Lauren leaves in a couple of years. Crazy! Didn’t I just put her in kindergarten?
I love you dearly! You are a wonderful mother and daughter. Whenever I need a good “cry”, I listen to “Sunrise, Sunset” and remember you playing in the creek, swinging on the round swing or helping me.
You are an inspiration Michelle. You are the kind of mom I want to be to my kids. 🙂
I just wanted to let you know that this morning I went back and read your guest posts on Segullah. (Shame on me, I hardly ever read Segullah blog.) And I loved them. The one about your friend, “Kate”–I SO could have written that one myself, only I wouldn’t have done it anywhere near as well as you did. I feel exactly the same about those three things that are pillars of your testimony, and for the same reasons. (“I accept Joseph Smith because I believe in the Book of Mormon.” And priesthood blessings. And the temple. Yep.) Anyway, thanks for those. (And the reunion post! Yes!) Glad I know you.
And my email address is daryoung at yahoo dot com. So let’s get together.