"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.