A Story for All Ages

This is a story that begins, not once upon a time and far, far, away, but one that takes place in homes all over the world, and right here, right now.

And how does it begin?

>Cup of JoeWith people gathered together and a spark, the striking of a match, a cloud of sulfur, a flame that erupts from nothingness into suddenly being. The candle is lit, the lights are dimmed, and a small, curious voice breaks the solemn silence on this holiest of nights and asks, as children often do, “Why? Why do we light candles tonight?”

The child’s words seemed to hang in the air forever as the adults in the room desperately search their own memories—what is that story again? What words shall we use? What are the most important parts of the story to share with the next generation? And then it occurs to the elders: they don’t remember hearing these stories for the first time, or what words were used, or even who told them.

The stories are just part of them, the stories are in their bones.

Meanwhile, the “why?” still hangs in the air, and this time, perhaps, the silence is of the stunned sort until, finally, perhaps the wisest elder in the room responds, “I don’t know. Why do you think we light the candles?”

The child considers this, then carefully, quietly responds, “Because it is dark?”

Silence.

“…and because it is beautiful.”

Another voice chimes in, “Yes… and, Yes. And, sometimes, we light candles as a prayer.”

Another: “to remember our strength.”

And another still, “for the lessons and stories and people that we carry with us.”

But this story doesn’t end there, because like the spark that brought the candlelight into being, the question has ignited sharing and storytelling that lasts long into the night.

“We light candles to light the way home,” the elders say. “To remind us to open our hearts and homes to others who seek a safe place to stay.”

“We light the candles to bring light into the darkness, and to remember our ancestors; to remember struggles won and lost.We light candles for miracles.”

“We light candles for a star in the sky, to remind us to stop, look and listen, and to celebrate the promise of a newborn child. For peace; in my heart and in the world.”

“For the sun,” the child chimes in. “And for the night, and for longer days ahead.”

The hearts of the elders become full as they begin to remember the stories; they are overcome with child-like wonder and awe: “For those who keep telling our story and for those who listen, for faith and purpose and togetherness.”

“We light candles for dedication and blessings and love and wonder.”

The flame is passed from one candle to the next and the next, as stories are passed from generation to generation; and the room grows brighter in the midst of the deep, dark winter night.

“We light these candles to spread the light, because we seek the light.”

Suddenly, it is clear that the spark that began it all brought not just light into the room, but also somehow managed to fill the room with stories, and miracles, strength and beauty, peace and promises, prayers and ancestors and the promise of newborn babies.

And this story still does not end here; because once upon a time becomes a day in the future when the children will be the elders who search their own memory for the stories and meaning as they strike a match to light a candle, and hear the question, “why?”

This is a story of light; it is a story that never ends.

Finding the Right Teachable Moment

finding the right teachable moment

Submitted By Erin Rockafellow

Back in October the kids and I were sorting pumpkin seeds for roasting that we had brought home from a group carving. The kids and I were having fun being together with slimy hands and all. As we sorted the seeds some of them had started to sprout already.

The big discussion began between my 10 year old daughter and my 8 year old son about what to do with those seeds:

“We should save them and plant them!” says my daughter.

“No just throw them away,” says my son.

“But if we plant the seeds they will grow into new pumpkin plants.”

“Yes, but they aren’t pumpkins yet- so we should just throw them away.”

“We shouldn’t throw them away; it isn’t their fault that they sprouted when they didn’t need to.”

“It’s almost winter. What are we going to do with pumpkin plants? We can’t grow them in the house; we need to throw them away.”

As this conversation went on, my husband and I kept looking at each other. First with amusement about the parallels between this topic and the abortion debate. As the debate wore on, we really started to wonder if we should go ahead and have the big conversation with our kids since they really seemed to have very strong opposing opinions. The kids continued their lines of thought, trying to convince the other that they were right. It was like watching a tennis match.

In my head I was trying so hard to decide what to do: would I be a bad mom if we didn’t have that big talk? Is it really in our best interest to have that discussion with a 10 year old and 8 year old? My husband and I just looked at each other with a slight amount of panic and silently came to a decision to not have that discussion.

We congratulated the kids on having a well debated topic and we told them how proud we were that they never started fighting, but continued to use kind language with each other. Honestly, the kids did a great job of articulating why they thought their opinion was the right one. We helped the kids agree to disagree and explained that sometimes the best thing you can do is hold your opinion and let someone else have theirs too.

It ate at me. For weeks I second guessed my decision to take the easy way out. I knew that when we made the decision it was more about us feeling uneasy and unprepared than it was about anything else. Over breakfast one morning I told a friend about my story. She listened to everything including my own self doubt. Instead of telling me that I chickened out, she reminded me that sometimes situations have more than one teachable moment; my husband and I picked the one that was right for us. The other moment that we had skipped over would be waiting in the back of our minds for when the time was right for that big discussion. We had not lost our moment we just cataloged it away for later; and for us, that was the best we could do in that moment.

What are your tips for approaching challenging teachable moments? Share below! 

Explore this idea through children’s literature: What is most important at any given time? “Being present” in The Three QuestionsBy Jon Muth

Kids Live Here

Kids live here. Sometimes it takes a two-year-old armed with a stolen blue sharpie and a big imagination to remind us of that.

Image

Kids live here,

  Sometimes we follow their whims…

…and sometimes they even let us play along.

Kids live here,

This home is where we nurture the imagination,

and let them be who they are.

Kids live here,

And sometimes we dare to let it show. 

Chilling Up

Over the past couple of weeks I have been feeling especially nostalgic. My daughter (my oldest) just graduated from preschool, and I may have started panicking a bit as I looked through the pictures from her end of year celebration. For some reason it has only now started hitting me that in just a blink of an eye I am going to look back at the pictures from significant days like this and feel a tinge of sadness. My heart has begun to ache for the future me that will look back on these moments and miss the different versions of my kids captured by my camera as we move all too quickly through time.

Not that I haven’t always felt a bit of that same tinge when I have looked back at other pictures of my daughter and my now two-year-old son; but I think that this is the first time when I have, in the midst of one of these once-in-a-lifetime moments, so fully felt the emotions that the future me will undoubtedly feel in the not-so-distant future. I blame the lack of sleep that generally comes along with the first few years of a child’s life. It is a crime that sleep deprivation and new-parent stress can keep one from thoroughly understanding the magnificence of the cuddles, snuggles, and late-night feedings. (Of course, I say all this now that I am some distance from this stage.)

At any rate, I am feeling like I have finally grown into my “parenthood” shoes and that I can more fully appreciate each moment as it is. Letting go of the stress has allowed me to more fully enjoy rites of passage, big and small; from my daughter’s graduation to my son’s beaming pride at every great new achievement. I am more present as he has really grown into a wonderful, imaginative playmate and my daughter has, after two years, learned to share her toys. Some lessons are just so hard to learn, but well worth the wait.

Before I discover my next stage of parenting, which may very well land me right back into “stress and sleep deprivation” land, I want to enjoy this moment in time and perhaps reach back a little bit and honor some of the milestones that I didn’t appreciate enough at the time. So today I’d like to start my list of under-appreciated moments in time that I would like to remember in the future. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate or have a few of your own under-appreciated kid and parent milestones to add:

Milestones I Should Have Appreciated More:

  • When the kids started talking about (in detail) and celebrating their bowel movements. Call me immature, but it is funny.
  • The first creation of a family portrait. On the wall. The same one that we have not had the heart to erase.
  • Each car ride accompanied by complete songs; the ones that are sweet only a parent’s ears and sung over. and over. and over.
  • The puke covered shirts (mine, not theirs), for I would have never gotten onto the scarf bandwagon if I hadn’t been out of clean shirts and needed to quickly cover a little puke grossness.
  • The inventions of new word combinations such as “Hanitizer,” “Co-help-erate” and “Chill up, Mommy!” And the day when we realized that those words found a way into our everyday vocabulary.
  • The moment when I realized for the first time what I REALLY sound like; not because I was listening to a recording, but because my kids began to speak clearly enough to throw my words right back at me. And I found myself annoying.
  • When I found out for the first time which of our possessions really mattered… because it was thoroughly destroyed by tiny hands. (See related: when my children proved that “childproof” doesn’t mean what we thought it meant.)
  • When I could trust my kids to play nice long enough to close the bathroom door, thank you very much.
  • When we discovered that the kids were tall enough to reach up onto the kitchen counters, only to discover just how well they could also reach the trash can, and just how hard it can be to find a set of car keys.
  • When the kids could start remembering where they hid things.
  • The day when your two-year-old throws a fit and your four-year-old says, “jeeeze… what’s HIS deal?!” Priceless.
  • The first time when I, in the midst of one of these once-in-a-lifetime milestones, so fully felt the emotions that the future me will undoubtedly feel in the not-so-distant future–knowing that I will miss my kids as they are in each of these moments.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stopping to smell the roses

It is funny how children can speed up and slow down your life all at the same time.

There are days that I scarcely remember; a blur of tasks: Get the kids up and clothed, fed and cleaned, out the door and in the car, back home, settled down and snuggled, read to and asleep. Before you know it, you are passed out on the couch (nursing that foot you injured stepping on those stinking toys) wondering where the heck your day went.

And then there are the days when you are forced to slow it down; your daily flight into “to-do list land” grounded, plans derailed, and to make it worse, there is usually puke involved. Or, perhaps, I should speak for myself.

Oddly enough it is on these days, when my time is spent sitting on the couch, snuggling with my sick kid, that I wonder why it is that I am so inclined to wait until I have endured a toy-inflicted injury to spend some time crashed on my couch. It is nice when there is a chance to slow it down… just for the sake of slowing it down. No puke involved.

I think that my daughter has made it her life’s mission to remind us to take it down a notch; this is a child who, from the time she was born, has always moved at her own pace. Sometimes to our greatest frustration. Shortly after she started to walk, we discovered that the days of moving our bodies from point A to point B in a timely fashion was a thing of the past. We no longer walk somewhere; we go on adventures.

I am convinced that if you were to research the origins of the phrase “stop and smell the roses,” that you would undoubtedly find a picture of my daughter with this caption underneath: “Flowers, bugs, small creatures, leaves, trees, and pine-cones be warned: if you see this child, you WILL be smelled, talked to, SUNG to, touched, picked up, hugged and collected. And parents, you WILL be late. You just WILL.  Go with it. *See related phrase: ‘Moving at the speed of Alex.'”

Even though there are times when I wish she would get in the car so we can JUST LEAVE ALREADY, in my heart of hearts I adore this about my daughter. Time and to-do list be damned, there is nothing more beautiful than watching the awe and wonder in the eyes of a child who is experiencing the magnificence of our earth with her whole self. I have truly never met a single soul who so naturally live and breathes her connectedness to all of existence.

She takes the time to notice what everyone in the room is wearing, and wonders why. She feels the wind on her face and wants to know where it came from. She remembers the exact rock to look under to check up on her favorite hill of ants, asks them how they are doing and what it is, exactly, they eat.

I would be heartbroken if this child, this insipiring being full of love, imagination and compassion, no longer found meaning in the beauty and wonder of all that surrounds her because I taught her that meaning can only be found in crossing stuff off a list and in racing the clock. She makes me wonder how much of my world I am missing out on while I am counting down the seconds until I HAVE to be out the door or when I am hyper-focused on reaching my destination.

What would happen if the rest of the world took a little time to “move at the speed of Alex”? Perhaps my daughter could teach us all a thing or two about embracing the journey and soaking in the beauty that surrounds us instead of anticipating the destination. I am finding that the roses along the way have quite a bit to teach me… almost as much as the three-year old by my side.