You hear those stories about a generation of kids who are over-scheduled yet it seems that there is a lot of pressure on parents to make sure their child is in the swing of things by participating. I find parenting disclosures concerning how many activities are too many, why we push our kids to do things, and the long-term effect or investment that will come. While I'm interested in these discussions and intrigued with the idea that people are thinking about college applications and scholarships when I'm still thinking about snack and naps, I'm finding myself just happy for the moment. That brings about the question of how to strike balance between enjoying the present and contentment with the now without making children accustomed to instant gratification or lacking understanding about working toward a long-term goal. But back to the activities....
Last week, Anna Cate attended her first ever day camp through the Fredericksburg City Parks and Rec, an Art Camp. She didn't learn techniques that blew me away (or if she did, she didn't share it with us either through word or product), but she enjoyed herself. I listened to an NPR review of Freakanomics approach to children activities and the basic point was that parents are seeing their children as investments and trying to get them in the most amount of extra-curriculars for future enrichment so their kid will get into a good college and the returns on the investment will increase.
This wasn't the case: she likes art, I'm not very creative or patient, so we did Art Camp.
Now, I know I said she didn't learn anything substantial about art, but I think she might have about life. She sat next to a little girl Eva who was delightful and has Down Syndrome. It offered Anna Cate and me the chance to converse about it at home when Anna Cate said she looked a little different, but more importantly, it gave Anna Cate the chance to make a new friend. I hope we see her again.
Anna Cate really notices the little things. When we were cooking BJ breakfast for Father's Day, I told her how important it was not to get the raw egg on the counter and if we did to clean it up immediately. After explaining to her that raw eggs can hurt us sort of like poison, she instantaneously quipped, "then why do you eat cake batter?"
One morning on the way home from swim practice, Anna Cate stopped and said, "oh my gosh, I can't believe it, Mom, but there are wild berries growing on this path."
Can you find them in this picture:
She had to point them out to me.
She is swimming for our Community's swim team this year. When I learned that her age group was the first practice of the morning at 8am, I was a little bummed out not to get to sleep in, but I've been so grateful for getting ourselves up and out. A couple times, I've even ran before the girls wake up. I am sure there is some metaphor for life here about getting up and out, or some truth to Ben Franklin's quote, "Early to bed, early to rise makes one happy, healthy and wise." (But it has interfered with my writing since I usually blog in the late evening.)
Her first race was an even more poignant metaphor for life.
Our friends came to watch and cheer for her.
She swam the 25 meter free style.
She was quite nervous so before she was coached, I told her where Brenda, her Baba whom she adores, and I would be standing to cheer for her.
So, she jumped in and started out strong.
But before she reached the finish line, she stopped on the rope three times to look at us and smile. I will never ever forget her big eyes darting through the goggles staring right at Brenda. She was more consumed with joy for Brenda and my cheering for her than the finish line.
The next meet I did not tell her where I was BUT I think her smiling face and eyes darting at Brenda personified the joy for the journey. For Anna Cate, looking at Baba and me was a bigger deal than the finish line and I think that stopping along the way to notice who your fans and friends are is an important part of the race. . . .of life.
So we try to balance the finish line with the journey, the long term goals with the joy in the present. We are going to the beach this weekend and BJ keeps counting down because he is so excited and I am too, but I'm enjoying every day of the summer. My mantra is stolen from the yoga principle of being present. Like spending time with our family and friends.
Molly got to play the piano a bit with Evan and Jackson while AC was at Art Camp, and afterwards we all went out for lunch. Another mom and son were there and in making conversation, I said it looks like you two are on a Mommy-son date. Anna Cate said, I'm on a date with him as she pointed to Evan.
This week, we enjoyed playing with Naima and Daines, who are two beautiful girls whom we've met through church.
Their family whose origin is in Burundi came here by way of a Refugee camp in Tanzania. They have eight children in their home which was neat as a pin; their Dad works two jobs and every one of the children have impeccable manners and beautiful smiles.
Their Burundian parents have seen violence I can not even imagine and their mother knows little English nor how to drive, but she knows how to raise a family of beautiful people. The children are rays of sunshine to be around and being in their presence makes me grateful for both my opportunities and gives me high hope for theirs. Anna Cate has no comprehension of their different backgrounds; they are just friends.
And the metaphor for life in that is when we see each other as fellow human beings, as friends, there are good times....or changes we need to make in our perspective, for society or our world. Ok I know it is a stretch, but I have seen the changes that have been made in children's lives because others saw them and noticed a need.
"We must live with people to know their problems and live with God to 'help' solve them"
Now, about Molly...
I find myself noticing and appreciating the milestones in her life just as much as I'm sure I did with Anna Cate. There is nothing secondary about a second child. Her quirks, habits and sounds are precious and exciting to me.
She understands so much and runs around a lot.
I can ask her to bring me an object and she does; I asked her to shut the door today and she got up from her coloring to do so. In addition to Mommy, Daddy, she says shoes, sissy, and MOE for more, mine, "dah do" for thank you, something that sounds like "here ya go" when she hands me something, down, Naah and shakes her head for No, and bow and points to her hair bows, night-night. But the best darn thing she does is kiss. Her mouth perfectly puckers up as she sneaks up on you for a kiss before she giggles with delight. Sometimes when I pick her up, she kisses my shoulder. Pure heaven, I tell you.
Tonight was the second swim meet of the season and Molly quickly bonded with some girls from the other team who entertained her.
She showed her gratitude in an abundance of kisses.
They were such sweet moments I shared with children I'll probably never see again. The metaphor here is enjoy the moment with people who are in your path for only a short period of time.
And Anna Cate's swimming performance? While I had hoped the little "ham it up, hanging out on the rope" performance would be a one time deal, it wasn't.
Anna Cate was off and started out so strong:
But then she rested and couldn't get back in the game. She rested on the rope SEVERAL times, which felt like ages for me.
She couldn't seem to find the motivation to get back to swimming. Having been influenced by both my father and the Tiger Mom (a book I reviewed here), I didn't sugar coat it. She finished almost 40 seconds slower than she did last time and I told her that it wasn't her best. BJ thinks she isn't competitive enough and is too easily distracted, traits he says she gets from me. So maybe the metaphor here tonight is DON'T STOP! Hanging on that rope feels too comfortable to let go. Or, it might be don't start out too fast as BJ says, "sometimes the hare beats the tortoise." Her coach Stephen said she needs to use her arms, so maybe that metaphor is use all the natural gifts God gave you.
I recently read this article in the Atlantic (which is a great periodical where I learn new words and new ideas every article I read). Basically, the article from a psychologist point of view that 25 years ago, unhappiness in patients was rooted in something in one's childhood, particularly Mommy or Daddy issues. BUT lately, she is finding adults who are unhappy because their wonderful parents made the childhood too happy. As my friend Lisa, so appropriately said, it is a case of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.' I left the article with a renewed sense of the importance of balance in parenting and in life.
Balancing the long term goals like swimming the race without touching the rope with enjoying the activities by making new friends while being present for the journey is a theme I'm trying to develop as a parent and as a person.
(and maybe even getting some inspiration from the friends since Abbie is 5 and can swim the whole way without touching the rope)
In all of these little moments or activities or new words for Molly or understandings for all of us, I'm seeing that we are enjoying our summer and noticing who is cheering for us....or for whom we are cheering.
(Read about the Vanderbilt Commodore baseball team's fabulous season, of one I'm proud Anna Cate was a part.)
All the moments aren't perfect which is why I'm reading the book 1-2-3 Magic, a discipline plan for getting your child to listen and be respectful without loosing your cool, but after reading that Atlantic article it is ok that they all aren't perfect, right?!
Overall the blessings like the metaphors abound.
Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”