Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Perfect Summer Moment

"May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it." ~Jane Austin

I am not an adventurous sort of mother. I seldom take my children on hikes to gaze at waterfalls or day trips to visit aquariums and botanical gardens. I have a sister-in-law, who is a wonderful mother and her daughters' summers are filled with outings to museums, and nature centers. Last week she drove an hour to take them to a sunflower farm. She emailed out beautiful pictures of her sun-kissed daughters picking flowers as big as their smiling faces.

And then there's me. I am the kind of mother you find at home. I email pictures of my children in my bedroom surrounded by the three decks of cards they dumped on the floor while I was taking a shower today. When we do venture out, we generally stay within the familiarity of my suburb. We go to the library, to McDonalds, to the park or to the the playground in my neighborhood. There are several reasons for this. For one, I am protective of Ben and Clara's schedules. I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mama. I like naps, and I like them taken at the same time every day. Secondly, I don't like to drive to places I am unfamiliar with. And lastly, and this is probably the biggie, is with four children, especially with two toddlers, going anywhere for more than an hour feels like an ordeal.

I get that these are all self-fulfilling quirks. My children are not adaptable because I don't require them to adapt. As long as I never drive anywhere, places will stay unfamiliar. Yada, yada, yada. I know am enabling my shortcomings, but I'm mostly I'm okay with that.

I would be lying though, if I didn't admit I occasionally get those guilty twinges, that maybe I am not exposing them to enough. 'Am I keeping their world too small?', I wonder. And it is because of that nagging voice, that every so often I gather my patience and my courage about me and head out to a children's museum or drive into Atlanta for a show. And inevitably Clara cries all the way home, or Ben whines all afternoon and I remember why I like staying local. There is something to be said for knowing your mommy-limits.

So today, in true 'Joy' character, I took my children to the local mall to play in the fountains for our big outing of the week. It's been too hot for months here to do anything outside that doesn't involve water and we have been avoiding the pool. Ben's afraid of it, and while I know we should be making frequent visits to help him overcome this fear, taking a 1 yr old and a crazy-scared 3 year old swimming does not even resemble a good time in my book. So, as Allison and Brandon no longer require my presence to visit the pool (we have a lifeguard), I haven't been in an entire month. And I'm not sorry. I don't think it would be too strong for me to say, I hate the place. Who wants to see me in a swimsuit anyway?

But the fountains. Now that is a different story. Sprinklers for recreation are banned here because of the drought so falling water is a novelty to my children. With much excitement, we packed my backpack with sunscreen, water bottles and a couple spare pieces of clothing. We threw some towels in the car and headed seven minutes down the road to the mall. You could hardly even call it an outing. But as I sat on a bench (fully clothed-Yay!) under the shade of a tree (Yay-again!), and watched my children running and playing together and screeching with uncontained delight, and yes occasionally venturing into the fray myself, I knew that for all summers glorious options, that they were not missing out after all. For what more delight could the day offer than this?

And afterwards as we all sat licking ice cream cones, and watching sticky strawberry rivers run down Ben's bare arm and chest, he looked up at me, and said,

"Dat was bery fun, mama."

And we all laughed and agreed that it was 'bery fun'.

And I felt, in that moment, a taste of the perfect, fleeting joy of motherhood that I am always chasing so earnestly. And I held it in my heart like a breath I was afraid to exhale.

And I was so very thankful.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post this was! I don't think you need to feel that your kids are missing something.

I have seen parents taking there kids everywhere and having the kids and themselves exhausted this way. And this might result in impatient and unfair parenting, because not only the kids, but the parents too have crossed their limitations...

I guess your Mommy intuition will show you exactly what fits you and your kids. And doing trips to the liberary with my Mom is still one of my sweetest childhood memories.

slouching mom said...


I'm so glad it was "bery fun."

So sweet.

AmandaD said...

We are all chasing it, not one among us gets it right in our own eyes.

Be gentle and tiptoe out when you can.

Beck said...

Being adventurous is overrated, I think - what kids really need is for us to be stable, consistent and loving. And to give your children a "bery fun" day is just such a blessing, this wonderful extra.

Lori said...

I can relate to being almost too much of a "stay at home" mom. I was just thinking yesterday that as much as I have enjoyed this summer, I haven't really *done* much with my kids. But, they don't seem worse for wear, and like you said, we need to know our limits.

And no, taking a one year old, and a terrified three year old, to the pool does NOT sound fun! But I am so glad you found something that was so "bery" fun!

spaz said...

Keeping your kids life simple has it's benefits. They will appreciate the simple things. It won't take much to impress them. Simple walks in the park, looking for birds and squirrels is the highlight of their week. I wish we all had simpler lives where didn't have to rely on "entertainment" to entertain us. I've found that there is just as much joy, if not more, in just "be"ing in life and in relationships. My favorite memories are of just "be"ing with friends. "do"ing is over-rated. My opinion, humbly submitted. No offense to those who are "do"ers :) I myself am a "do"er, striving to just "be".

Christy said...

I don't do much with my daughter. I work all week and by the weekend I am tired and just want to stay at home. However, her Nana does all of the fun activities with her all the time. Gee maybe that is why she never wants to leave there!

Don and Lynn said...

It's important to know your limits. I believe in doing fun things with your kiddos, but too much isn't a good thing. We've enjoyed the pool, which I finally got Blake to like-yippeee! Oh, by the way, I need to either give you the float back or pay you for it. We really like it, so you want me to just buy it off of you? I liked it so much I ordered another one, this time a sports theme. Not sure that Don's crazy about the flower-lol!

Anyway, we had season passes to Lake Lanier Islands this year and Don asked me why I didn't take the kids. Oh yeah, running around after two 14 month olds at a waterpark sounds less than fun, in fact, it sounds kinda dangerous! I think I'd need a Valium by the time we were done. Your mall trip sounds more than wonderful and I'm sure your children, well maybe not Clara, will remember it for a long time!

Christine said...

what a sweetie that boy is.

I know what you mean about venturing out. sometimes it seems so daunting. and with four kids--i couldn't imagin. so i get it. but sometimes i do venture out and surprise my self with the fun i have. and other times i venture out and think "what the heck have i gotten myself into!?"

and naps are key, dude. you CAN'T miss nap unless it is a Very Very Important Day. you know, like Christmas! well, i actually force naps on Christmas, too!

i'm mean like that.

Kyla said...

So sweet. I think it is all relative, like everything in parenting. Sure, your sister in law might do those huge outings, but she is a different person than you and her kids are different than your kids. The best thing for each can be two totally different things. We need to give ourselves more slack in areas like this (I'm guilty of the comparing, too). We are who we are, and it is always enough for our kids. You and your kids have a "bery fun day" and it was just PERFECT. I love it.

Angela said...

Sounds like a great day.

Mrs. Incredible said...

Their world is usually as big as a few feet in front of them (hopefully yours). Have no regrets, they surely don't!