This summer has been peppered with nostalgia. It’s one of my favorite things about being a mom: as my children experience things, I get to relive days that were simple, innocent, full of a special kind of awe and beauty.
Just today I caught a whiff of the humid summer air, in between rains on a very wet day, and was transported back (you know that whooshing style movie flashback) to my grandparents’ farm in the country, the air still and silent around me. I see Queen Anne’s lace dotting the borders of fields, and hear the gurgling creek, and remember the big backyard of the farmhouse that backed up to bins and sheds and simultaneously held both a sense of adventure and peace. I was reminded of my Grandma. And of being a kid, surrounded by siblings with not a care in the world.
Childhood is so vivid.
The sound of morning doves takes me back to our big green front porch on a hot summer morning, the day ahead full of potential. The glow of fireflies puts me back in my childhood bed, in front of the window on the second floor, counting the blinking bugs instead of going to sleep. The taste of sweet peas brings me back to our backyard garden, where we would just stand there in the dirt, bugs buzzing around us, and eat the peas straight from the plant.
I was thinking about why childhood tends to be so clear like this, and here’s what I concluded: the memories are sharp because the life is simple. When you don’t have to worry about bills to pay, meals to plan, deadlines to make, laundry to do, all you have to focus on is what’s in front of you. And what’s in front of you as a child is a world of wonder and a day full of play. All your needs are taken care of. There’s beauty in this. The complete trust a child has in his parents’ ability to look out for him enables him to truly enjoy his life.
The other afternoon I watched Simona sit at the dining room table as the afternoon sun streamed in through the windows. She was narrating an imaginary story, as she usually is, completely happy and oblivious to anything else but her game. I was struck by the thought that she is exactly where she is and nowhere else. She is not thinking about her to-do list and if she can somehow multi-task as she sits there. She’s not wishing she could be doing something else. She is perfectly happy to be a kid at home on a Thursday afternoon in the summer.
But somehow adulthood can get a bit cloudy. Maybe it doesn’t hold the vividness and clarity of childhood because we have become bogged down with duty, too busy to notice simple beauty, too jaded to be carefree. We have stuff to do. We don’t have time to just be.
The other day my mom came over to watch the girls, and as she came through the door, greeted by little footsteps and voices, she said, “Ah, it’s so nice to step into the world of a child.” And I had this moment where I felt kind of guilty because so often I just don’t think about it like that. I think about parenting, adulting, when I’m going to get my next break. I don’t put myself in my kids’ shoes very much. Selfish mom award, right over here.
Being an adult is hard, and mothering is certainly no exception to that. I have lots of ‘bad’ days where I don’t think I have what it takes to do this intimidating, wonderful task that is raising a child. I try to balance it all—I do the dishes while listening to the story Simona is so intently trying to tell me, I squeeze in a load of laundry while the girls are playing in the basement, I play ‘tag’ with them in the house while actually picking up things to put away as I run by them.
But lately I’ve found that my best times are the ones where i actually do step “into” childhood with my girls. I put down my phone. I get out of the “what’s next” mindset and banish the mental to-do list. I do nothing else but whatever simple thing they are doing. We watch two ants try to carry a dead beetle away. I wait as Helen bends down to play with the rubber in the sidewalk crack. I sit and watch Simona act out her “character movie” for the 37th time. This is a really hard thing to practice and I don’t it nearly as often as I should, because I’m a mom and therefore my brain is hardwired for multi-tasking, but I want to keep trying.
Naturally there are always going to be essential things that need to get done for the health and happiness of your family (you can’t ignore laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning forever), and your children need you to do those things probably almost as much as they need you to spend time with them (though they may or may not realize it). I’m only here to remind myself (oh, and you too, if you’re reading) to try to see childhood again for what it is. To not forget it’s simplicity and how the small things are actually the big things. To once in awhile stop trying to avoid or clean up the mess and get right into it.