This week our morning bike ride/walk has hit a snag. As our four and half-year-old has become more adventuresome riding over bumps and stumps, he popped the chain off its track. After repairing this twice on our long Saturday path, we had to call in reinforcements. The ride in the back of Dad’s truck after he came to rescue us was worth it!
This morning while he was trying to go down and around an obstacle in the road, he ran full force into the wheel of the stroller and popped the chain again. Because we were on a path that had a bit more traffic, we couldn’t stop and repair the chain. And so he had to push the bike back home. As we were walking, we were talking about what happens when things don’t go as we planned.
“We get frustrated!” he responded.
“Yes, it is frustrating, but is it a big deal or a little deal?”
He paused for a moment thinking. “It’s a little deal.”
“That’s right. We are safe and we are together and we’ll be home a little bit later than we thought, but not so much later.”
This language of big deal and little deal is language we have used with all of our children. It’s language that asks them to think about what’s really important and what really matters.
It’s language that I’ve started to internalize too, especially during this time of homeschooling and balancing more roles and responsibilities. It’s centered me and sobered me as I reflect on the number of people who are fighting a virus that there is no known cure for and who are grieving losing someone they love who has died from this virus.
Even as it started raining on our heads, we talked about the fact that we had dry clothes and towels at home that we could change when we made it there,.
But first, we had to keep walking and keep pushing the bike.
I love seeing all the first day of school pictures. This is a tradition I remember from my childhood. I can remember looking through the photo album that had each of us lined up in age order and trying to remember what it felt like to start each new year.
This year looks different because we are starting the school year with both kids at home. Sam and I have enjoyed using our teachers’ brains again and working on a daily schedule, units of study, and weekly activities that would be engaging and fun. (The two pups are going to work on not stealing snacks during snack time 🙂 This might take all fall!)
I have to admit the whole concept of homeschooling was overwhelming. This Spring during virtual school, I found myself stretched thin as we tried to keep our four-year-old connected to teachers and classmates as well as figure out the online learning system.
Today, I was just excited. We took our first day of school pictures like we have the past two school years. We took a morning walk, which serves as “our commute” to school, and then we started our school day. At this age, kids really need to learn to play and explore and discover but having things like calendar, circle time, and specials is grounding. It’s grounding for me as a parent because it distinguishes school day and school times from other times of the day and from other days of the week.
It also creates space to ask questions, to read new books, and to learn new things. For me as a parent/teacher, this is what I am most excited about. I am most excited to ignite my creativity, research crafts, and find books about each area of study. I am excited to learn alongside my kids and to play the role of facilitator and interst sparker rather than a disciplinarian.
It really amazing what we have learned about each other over this time at home. I am so thankful for a partner I get to teach alongside again and for the flexibility to try new things.
One of the aspects I’ve heard many parents reflect is good and so hopeful to witness during this time at home is the relationship that has developed between siblings. This is true for us too. The way that we are watching our four and half-year-old learn to be a big brother to a toddler is so sweet and encouraging. After our morning walks and bike rides, while I fold up the stroller, I see him reach out his hand and our eighteen-month-old and help her walk up the stairs.
He waits patiently and says, “You can do it. There you go. Just one more step.”
I never taught him this. I never taught him to slow down to her pace and to look down at her feet as she was walking up the stairs to make sure her foot was planted before he moved on to the next step. I never taught him to encourage her along the way.
Maybe helping each other comes naturally to us. Maybe when we see someone learning something new it is actually our natural instinct to reach out a hand and say, “You’re doing great. Keep going.”
Maybe it’s our consumerist, capitalist culture that subverts this natural helping and teaches us that in order to survive and thrive we have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps not worrying who we are stepping on. Maybe this isn’t natural at all and when we are still and quiet we feel disconnected and unhappy not because we don’t have enough but because we are stepping on other people rather than giving them a helping hand.
There’s something about this time at home and this stillness that is teaching me to watch and learn from our children what is good and right and important rather than believe the messaging that supports greed and inequity.
Thanks be to God for little hands reaching out and waiting while step by step we return to who we are.
I found this on Instagram posted by a teacher friend and immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me. I quickly posted it to my stories and followed @miles_of_pe who shared it. (If you know who created it originally, I’d love to give credit!)
After I posted it, I received so many comments and responses from fellow parents. Parents who have been worried about sending their children anywhere because they aren’t sure that it is safe. Parents who don’t have a teaching background wondering if they are engaging their children enough or whether they are falling behind. Parents who have made the decision to keep their kids home for the fall. Parents who are planning to send their kids to school in the fall and are worried that the stint of e-learning last Spring caused them to fall behind.
What if…it’s enough?
What if…our very concern over the well-being of our children is enough to help them know that they are loved and seen? What if…our sleepless nights and early mornings fitting in work before they get up and after they go to sleep is enough for them to understand that we are doing whatever we can to make sure they have time with us? What if…all those walks and outside time and playing in blow-up pools in the backyard is actually they’re absolutely favorite thing to do even though they have done it every afternoon?
What if, dear parent, you are not just enough…but more than enough?
Chubby hands reaching out to touch
the tall grass,
Curious feet creating ripples
in the still waters.
We basked in the
of the morning light.
And then walked on.
This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.
Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.
Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.
Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.
I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.
Since we have more time in the mornings, I have switched my coffee from a Keurig to a French Press. It takes longer to fix a cup of coffee, but it’s so much better. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but there just wasn’t time in the rush of packing lunches, getting clothes on, and getting into the car.
This has been one of my favorite aspects of this new life. There isn’t a morning rush.
Yesterday I was talking to our four-year-old about what his teachers had sent for the day and he said, “It’s ok mom, there’s time.”
Sometimes it seems all there is, is time.
There’s time for a pouring out of freshly brewed french press coffee. There’s time to linger over the breakfast table and lunch table and dinner table. There’s time for one more chapter at night. There’s time for the extra loop on the walk.
For this Eastertide blessing of pouring out and time, thanks be to God.
I can remember when it was finally time to share that our Eastertide secret pregnancy wasn’t going to be one filled with hope and new life, but grief. I can remember the gasp of joy as I shared with my congregation that we were pregnant and the gasps of grief as I shared that we miscarried.
Since that season, Eastertide will always have a tinge of grief in it. It seems strange for this season (the one where we know that death has been overcome) should be clouded by grief. And yet, maybe this year we know this more truly and more deeply than we ever have before.
We hope and then we see the reminder of the number of people who have lost their lives and hear predictions that those numbers will be even higher.
We find courage and then we see the rate of employment reach records we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.
We find calling and then we see food banks with lines that are two to three hours long and people waiting only to find out that there is not enough food.
Maybe this Eastertide, we lament and grieve together. Maybe our voices can join in crying out “Why, God, why?”
Life and death side by side all through Eastertide.
Maybe life becomes clearer when death is close by.
Maybe life and death residing together draw us closer to the One who has experienced both.
This morning, my dedication was renewed after a wonderful time of worship online. There was so much that happened last week so quickly that it really was very difficult to process through everything: schools closing, cancelling vacations, moving to working from home and homeschooling.
I don’t know about you but I ended every day exhausted from all the change and all the new.
If you are finding yourself in the same situation, take heart you are not alone. This new daily life and daily schedule on top of the news of the spread of COVID-19 is overwhelming. The grief over not being able to see friends and family and moving to purely digital communication is disheartening. These are things that don’t exhaust your physical body, but your very soul.
It’s more difficult to hear our souls. It’s harder to diagnosis when our souls are not well. Our souls are the very heart of us and also the very still, quiet center of us. Our souls aren’t easy to see and hear without lots and lots of practice. It is our very souls that will sustain us through these ever-changing times and so we must give some attention to them.
Yesterday as we were outside playing, I decided not to put my shoes on and instead feel the coolness of the grass next to the warmth of the ground. I wiggled my toes in the grass and it reminded me of exactly where I was connected to the earth and connected to my family. This is called grounding. In times of change and turmoil, if we can find some way to ground ourselves in the present moment, then we can find our center and find our souls again. Our minds quiet for just long enough for us to feel balance come back.
This is part of what Lent always calls us to do: difficult and challenging soul work. The work of confessing to being too busy to listen to our souls and connect to the Divine. This work is even more important during a time that is so different and became so different so quickly.
Our souls will provide us energy for the long days and hope for the dark nights. Listen to your souls even if for just a minute today. Allow them a chance to breathe and grieve. Allow yourself a chance for grounding and centering.