After what has seemed like an endless stream of cold winter days, today was warm and beautiful. My little boys shed their shirts, my little girls donned their swimsuits, and no one gave their shoes even a passing glance as the whole giddy group of them tumbled over each other out the back door and into the sunshine. They spent the day splashing each other with still-too-chilly water, flipping on the trampoline, shooting baskets, practicing their music accompanied by the sound of the breeze through the trees, swinging, running, catching ladybugs, and laughing. Pale skin got kissed by the sun and a precious two year galloped through the greening grass with a bare hiney and a carefree giggle.
After finishing my morning chores, my 8 months pregnant body was already exhausted well before lunchtime. While the kids played with Legos on the front porch I snuck stealthily out the back door and settled onto the empty trampoline to relax. The sun on my face warmed me and the soft wind quickly lulled me to the edge of sleep. But it wasn't long before I was found. My sweet Asa, who always has a desire to interact and engage, assumed I was bored and needed something to do.
"Hey Mama!" he said excitedly as he bounced over to me, jarring me out of my peaceful aloneness.
"Hey Ace...." I knew what was coming....
"Want to play catch with me?"
"No thanks, buddy, I'm just going to rest a little bit."
"Ok, then, how about we find a basketball and play HORSE?"
"Mmmm..no..I'm pretty tired. Big baby in my belly and all that, you know?"
"Aw, come on Mama, let's do SOMETHING..."
I continued to resist. Not really feeling too guilty about it, honestly, because a Mama deserves a few minutes to rest, right? I convinced him to lie down with me and let me use his back as a pillow. We lounged together as I drifted back into my state of limp body and blank mind. Ah...sweet quality time.
Unless you're a 9 year old boy. Then it's just plain boring.
"Asa, why don't you see if any of the other kids want to go to the creek and play?"
"I already asked them," he replied with a dejected frown, "no one will go."
"You could go by yourself."
"That's no fun, Mom. Hey! I know! You can go to the creek with me!" I didn't even have to open my eyes to know that a big smile and shining eyes were looking at me expectantly.
Somehow the "no" on the tip of my tongue magically transformed itself into a "sure" on its way out. And just like that, I was committed.
I rolled my awkward bulkiness toward the opening of the trampoline, ungracefully plopped onto the grass, and slowly made my way into the house to get my creek boots.
Somehow, in the 38 minutes I had taken to relax, my house had been destroyed by mischievous little ones. Ok, they were actually just hungry little ones who had decided to fend for themselves when they realized that their mama had forgotten that it was well past lunchtime and any attempts to bring her out of the sunshine would likely be futile. The place was a wreck. Something in me will not allow me to walk out of my house and leave a mess like that behind, so I went straight to work. And my persistent and now very excited Asa was on my heels the entire time...
"Are you ready yet? Are you ready now? Should I get the nets? I'll go find a bucket. Want to take the wagon? I need to put my bathing suit on! Don't worry, it won't be too cold for you. Is it time now? Are you almost done with this? Can we go? Can we now? Huh, mama? How about now?"
I finally finished cleaning up, pulled on my boots, put Julia in charge of Juni, and slowly trudged out of the house with Asa. It wasn't that I had a bad attitude about going. I just didn't know if I could muster enough energy to make it all the way there.
Asa skipped ahead of me dragging the wagon with the nets and buckets and bubbling with excitement.
He smirked at me when my unbalanced body caused me to teeter on the rocks and made fun of me when my crawdads kept getting away. But for the hour we spent together at the creek, I knew there was no place he would rather have been. He showed me all the best spots to catch the biggest crustaceans. He told me about the mudsucker fish he once caught that was as big as his hand. He talked on and on, telling me stories of the day he caught so many crawdads that he couldn't lift the bucket, and the time he put a little one in with three huge ones and came back to find the big bullies eating the poor tiny creature. So many stories I had never heard before. So many moments that excited him, that I had not been a part of. Asa had invited me to play at the creek with him so many times. I'd gone on occasion. But usually with my mind on everything else I "should" be doing instead. Today, though, I was there with him. In the moment. As much I enjoyed hearing his tales of past adventures, I was struck with the realization that I don't just want to HEAR my children's stories from them, I want to LIVE their stories with them. When my kids are grown and we relive their childhoods together, I want as many recollections as possible to begin with "Mama, remember when..." rather than, "Mama did I ever tell you about the time....". I want their memories of me to be not of a mama who stayed dry and watched them from a distance, but of a mama who jumped in the creek and let the freezing water fill her boots and the crawdads pinch her fingers.
We have but one childhood together, my children and I. And it isn't meant to be watched. It's meant to be shared, enjoyed, lived.
I know I can't experience every moment right beside them, though. So I will encourage them to explore the woods with their friends. I will kiss them happily and wave goodbye when I leave them to make memories with their grandparents. I will watch from the sidelines as they score goals, run races, and win awards.
But when those special moments come, and I know I will recognize them, when it's my turn to run and play beside them, to lean down to their level and see the world through their eyes, to shoot baskets, to fall in the creek and laugh at myself...when it's time to live the adventure, I want to be the mom who joins in without hesitation.
The stories that they will remember for the rest of their lives are being written on their hearts today, mama.
Let yourself come alive on the pages!