Sundays, puppies, baseball, and books.

I had a moment on Sunday.  Life is moments strung together, isn’t it?  And this one was a moment for the top of the string.

Sunday was a beautiful Fall day, one of those crisp air days, with blue sky and sunshine and the crunch of Ontario maples beneath my feet.  It was the second day of an atypical under-scheduled weekend, two full days in which my family of four spent no more than a couple of waking hours apart.  Just how I like it.  After an early Sunday dinner, we decided to wander over towards the library to return some books and play some baseball.  We grabbed the bat and the ball, the books and the bag, the pup and the dog treats, and away we went.

It’s a short ten-minute walk from my house to Burlington’s Central library, located on a huge urban greenspace with ball diamonds, soccer fields, and a playground just outside the library doors.  As we wandered along, the sky began to shift towards an early sunset, another reminder that Winter is on its way.  We entered the park, and my daughter and I headed towards the book drop bin, while my husband, son, and puppy headed for the baseball diamond.  We called the dog back and forth, a few hundred metres separating ourselves, practicing her recall command, marvelling at her temperament, and showering her with praise and treats.  At the book drop bin, I passed pile after pile of Berenstain Bears books, as my daughter happily loaded them into the drawer, waiting for the thump of a book deposit success.  Job done, we headed back across the expanse of grass, towards the baseball diamond and our family game.

And that’s when the moment happened.

“Mom,” she said, her six-year-old hand in mine.  “I……. I……. I,” she stammered, searching for her words.  I could hear the emotion in her voice and see the depth of her feelings splayed across her face.  “I love you Mom,” she said as she turned towards me and reached her arms up, her unspoken signal to be picked up.  At fifty pounds and four feet tall, she’s not a toddler anymore, but she’s still my baby, and I’ll happily take a wrap-around hug anytime she’s giving them out.

I picked her up, breathed her in, squeezed her tight.  And as her little cheek pressed up against mine, I felt the moment overwhelm me too.

Bliss.  Gratitude.  Joy.  Presence.  Whatever you want to call it, we felt it.

Green grass under our feet, pink sky above our heads, a puppy at our side, a baseball in our hands.  It all came together on Sunday night.

A moment, that’s all.

But a big moment for us.

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The Game of LIFE

I’m more productive when I’m busy.  I work well with deadlines and tight timelines and quick turnarounds.  Too much idle time gives my Type-A mind time to feel bored, ineffective, and squirmy.  I work best with goals and to-do lists.  And yet….

I need downtime.  Every day.  Even if it’s five minutes with my book in a quiet room or ten minutes on my yoga mat.  I need time for reflection and introspection and time to just “be.”  The introverted side of me craves this.

As a parent, I’m trying to identify these types of needs in my children early on, so that I can help them find ways to manage their emotions, their coping skills, their lives.  I already see that my eight-year-old son also needs daily decompression time, and I protect that time for him fiercely; he’s the best version of himself when he’s had time to regroup and recalibrate.  My five-year-old daughter seems to be able to roll with the punches a bit more, similar to my husband, and go with the flow, even if the flow is really busy.

thegameoflifeThis past weekend was a crazy one for us.  Over-scheduled and over-booked, Saturday was a day of running from one place to the next.  But Sunday was the opposite- it was one of those days at home that I love so much- puttering around the yard, playing in the backyard, tidying the house.  Just “being.”

I’ve written about things like this before, so I’ll re-post a little bit of what I’ve already shared with you, in the hopes that you’ll relate to a part of my message:

“Lately I’ve been talking to my children about “who they are.”  We’ve been chatting about things they like, things they don’t, things that are/aren’t important to them, and their hopes and dreams.  I’ve been trying to give them the verbiage of introspection, to open up their childhood minds to the language of what characterizes them, and makes them proud to be unique and special.  To be themselves, whomever those selves may be.

For now, my job is to give them opportunities to learn.  I see each exposure to something new as a chance for personal growth.  That’s why we spend our Summers traipsing around Southern Ontario and our Winters at every event within an hour’s drive.  We go to see monster trucks and rodeos and conservation areas and waterfalls and baseball games and theatres and ceramic studios and Teen Tour Band concerts and beaches and outdoor rinks.  We show them the world and try to help them figure out their role in this wonderful community of life.

I posted this on my Facebook Page a few days ago: “I really think a happy life is about balancing all of your favourite things.  Lower the stressors you have control over and prioritize the things that you love.”  And how are they to know the things that they love if I don’t give them the tools to discover that?

“Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good.”

And it seems to me that if you figure out your good, you will figure out your happy.”

The Game of Life rolls on…

“Please try not to spill it”

“Please try not to spill it.”  These words have come out of my mouth many times over the years, and I’m going to change that immediately.  Here’s why:

  • Because confidence.
  • Because self-worth.
  • Because who has time to care about messes?

How-To-Believe-In-YourselfI have two impressionable little people under my care, and I think my most important job is to make sure that they believe in themselves.  In their self-worth.  In their abilities.  In their importance.

“Please try not to spill it.”

The last time I said this, my newly three-year-old was carrying her plate from the kitchen counter to the table for lunch.  This is a skill she’s just learning- to balance a plate of food while walking.  She’s graduating from toddler to kid, and is starting to help out around the house with the little things she’s able to do.  Expectations for my kids are age-appropriate, but when she sees her six-year-old brother doing things, she wants to be a big kid too.  And I want to foster that.

“Please try not to spill it,” I said, as I passed her the plate.  And I saw her hesitate.  Just a little stutter-step, just a little pause, just a little self-doubt….. that I’d planted with my comment.  My heart broke into a million pieces.  I saw it happen:  right before my eyes her mind shifted from the confident “I’m-a-big-girl,” while “Mommy-doesn’t-think-I-can-do-this” creeped in.

Now perhaps some of you are thinking that’s ridiculous.  We need to parent our children, you say.  We need to guide them, you say.  We need to teach them, you say.  And I believe this to be true.  But please tell me why it would be necessary to say “please try not to spill it?”  As if, by omitting this phrase, you would be encouraging the child to spill?  As if the child would purposefully try to spill and fail?  As if the child cannot make a mistake?  “Please try not to spill it” does not need to be said because the child will already be trying not to spill it.  Done and done.

Am I being too sensitive to this?  Too emotional?  Too picky?  I don’t think so.  I’m a sensitive soul and I know my kids.  “Please try not to spill it” does not promote the iamawesome-b649faed7b69b457b00e75e50158d7db self-confidence that I’m trying to cultivate in them.  It does not add to their world and their worth.  So it doesn’t make the cut.

Back to my earlier example, my daughter did not in fact spill her lunch, and she was very proud of herself for crossing the kitchen successfully.  But if she had spilled, I would hope to use that as an opportunity for both of us to learn and grow.  First, she was using a plastic children’t plate (like it would make a difference if the plate was breakable?  ‘Wear the Dress Socks,’ remember?).  Second, I can control my reaction so that it provides no fear component or worry about my approval.  And third, and most notably, spills teach that people make mistakes.  We clean up and move on.   Life happens.  And it’s often messy.

So I’m going to keep trying to set my children up for success, I’m going to keep trying to help them learn from their mistakes, and I’m going to keep trying to figure out this parenting gig.

“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.  ~Unknown.”