For May 2018, we are hosting a series on Cherishing Childhood. Check back to read more essays in the series as the month unfolds. If you missed it, check out our completed April series on Intentionally Cultivating Your Family Culture, and don’t miss the photo challenge we’re doing on Instagram for the first two weeks of May!
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Every morning, my son asks if it’s time to play outside. And that is how we spend the majority of this season: in the backyard sun-up to sun-down, returning inside only for potty breaks and diaper changes.
The giant tree from our neighbor’s backyard lends shade, but I am still placing discarded hats back on my kids’ heads. Neighbors join us, lured by the sounds of laughter. Ian and Leo learn to play catch instead of keeping the ball to themselves. The driveway is littered with scooters, bikes, and sidewalk chalk. I sip my iced coffee and relish the cool breeze, before refereeing the dispute over whose turn it is to blow bubbles.
Back in the kitchen, I leave the windows wide open. I slice strawberries while the sounds of play waft through the screens. The baby stands at the back door, watching her brothers through the window and wanting to be part of the action. By this time next year, she’ll be free to toddle around back there without much help from me. There’s a thin layer of sandbox sand across my kitchen floor. I’ll sweep it up before heading to bed, only for it to return tomorrow; I don’t mind too much. It’s only temporary.
This time of year, every night is bath time. I am gentle around their skinned knees, and I scrub the dirt out from under their fingernails. I run my finger down their tiny noses, which are growing more and more freckled through July and August.
In the summer, my children are meant to be slathered with sunscreen, chased through the sprinkler…and cherished.
Every morning, my son asks if today is a school day. And that is how we spend the majority of the season: driving back and forth from home to school, wearing light jackets and commenting on the changing color of leaves.
On the weekends, we head to the orchard. The boys load into a wagon, and the baby is in the Ergo, heavy against my chest and belly. Evan hoists them above his head, one after another, as they reach for the biggest, the reddest, the highest apples. We trek around until our tummies grumble and our collection bags are full of Michigan Honeycrisps.
Back in the barn, we munch on warm donuts, having traded summer’s berry-stained lips and fingers for the sticky residue of cinnamon-sugar. We fill small styrofoam cups with hot coffee for the grown-ups and fresh pressed cider for the kids. When their eyelids are heavy, and their voices grow whinier with fatigue, we trek back to the van with pumpkins for our porch, a peck of apples for our pies, tired feet, and happy hearts—a harvest.
Weeks later, we are gathered on the front porch at dusk, while I snap photos of them in costume. We wander up and down our street—one block is enough walking for their little feet and yields plenty of candy for their bellies. We coax our oldest up to every door—“You can do it! Don’t forget to say, ‘thank you.’” Our middle child needs no such prompting; he is ready and eager, despite hardly being big enough to carry his own candy bag.
In autumn, my children are meant to be taken to school, dressed up in costumes…and cherished.
Every morning, my son asks if we can build a snowman today. And that is how we spend the majority of the season: the kids dying to get out into the snow, while all I want is to stay inside under a blanket.
But even I get tired of being stuck indoors sometimes, so we decide to head out for a walk. On the couch, I create an assembly line of each child’s gear: coat, snow pants, mittens, hat, boots. When they’re ready (hours later, it seems), I buckle the baby into her stroller and tuck a warm blanket around her legs.
I spend more time than I’d like tracking down their winter gear, but I love those marshmallow babies. Their blue eyes and chubby cheeks peek out from beneath knit caps, the pom-poms atop their heads bouncing as they trudge through the snow. Our oldest yells, “Yes! Time to shovel!” and I laugh at his eagerness to do this chore adults dread. Meanwhile, the baby desperately tries to undo all my morning’s hard labor, shedding her mittens and booties at every opportunity.
When their noses are red and fingertips numb, I coax them back indoors with promises of sugar cookies and an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. They sing “Jingle Bells” at the top of their lungs while we pile wet boots in the hallway.
In the winter, my children are meant to be bundled up, snuggled with…and cherished.
Every morning, my sons ask if it’s warm enough to play outside. And that is how we spend the majority of the season: perched at the front window, looking for signs of the sun.
We drive to the botanical gardens because the greenhouse maintains a balmy 85 degrees; it’s a welcome respite from the bite of winter which hasn’t quite receded. I don’t even mind the crowds.
I watch them, watching the caterpillars. I remind them to step back, to keep their toes out of the flower beds. “Ribbit, ribbit,” Leo says because he has mixed-up caterpillars and frogs somehow. The baby points excitedly at each flower she sees, and I tell her their names and point out the colors. The boys like the butterflies from a distance but get nervous if any come too close. “Those butterflies not get me, Mama,” Leo says, swinging his arms wildly. I tell them butterflies are gentle and not to worry, and they slowly exchange their flinches for giggles and squeals.
At home, we open a package from Gram with new sneakers, now that it’s almost time to pack our snow boots away. I pull them into my lap and try to get them to push their heels into the shoe, and I check the sizes–all three kids requiring the widest width we can find–thinking maybe I should have gone even one more half-size bigger. Longing for summer, I’ve been eagerly marking off every passing day, but I still haven’t kept with their growth.
In the spring, my children are meant to be coaxed outside, fitted for new sneakers…and cherished.
When motherhood seems to be nothing but repetition, I see a tulip blooming in my yard and am reminded that nothing stays the same for long. The seasons are like four magic mirrors, helping me to see motherhood as it really is: constantly transforming, shifting almost imperceptibly, not nearly as mundane as I am sometimes tempted to believe. I notice the temperature changes, new growth or falling leaves, longer days or darker nights, and I also notice the way my oldest is hesitant to try new things, the way his brother’s cheeks burn red when embarrassed, the way our youngest seems the boldest risk-taker. Yes, I wipe noses and change diapers and slice grapes again and again and again, but it won’t be this way forever. The earth tilts on its axis, and suddenly, I see my children with new eyes. A new season is always on the way.
Lindsey is a writer, reader, and mom who is slowly learning to trade perfectionism for freedom. A Florida-to-Michigan transplant, her faith and sense of purpose are shifting as she experiences seasons in the world and in her own life. Lindsey is also the co-founder of The Drafting Desk, a newsletter for anyone trying to pursue grace instead of perfection. You can find her on Instagram @lindseycornett.
Check out the most recent episode of the Kindred Mom podcast, Episode 38: Every Screen Tells a Story!