In Shipshewana, Indiana—the Amish country home of my Yoder ancestors—all the stores, markets, and restaurants close for Sunday. Visiting for a week last July for a huge Yoder reunion, my family and I packed a picnic lunch during our Sunday there and drove up into Michigan and explored various lakes in the area, spent time together, and…slowed down to enjoy time together.

As a mother of young children, I am often reminded by older mothers to savor the time with my children because the years pass quickly. I always take these words of experience to heart, and I already sense how fleetingly fast the time is passing with my children. We wake up, we live full days, we cuddle, we go to bed, and then we wake up. Some nights I can hardly believe another day is passing us. I am keenly aware of already missing them as the future version of myself. It sounds weird and hokey and I have only ever described this to Bill, but ever since I was a very little girl I have felt a strong connection with myself at various ages, and I still do—both backward and forward in time. Feeling a need to make deliberately magical and passionate present moments is part of that feeling of time-bendedness, as is my constant observation and management of our life narrative. So, I often remind myself to be present with my kiddos, to make a memory on purpose, to take a picture with my mind’s eye, to press them close to my heart. I am very conscious, almost overly so, of the entity of space-time and feel it keenly—to the points of both joy and sorrow, but mostly joy. Of course there are times when I am wishing the time to go a little faster on various errands when their patience might be thin, and there are times I need a stimulus-break for a moment, or even a moment just to use the bathroom privately. Other times days take on their own momentum, we get busy and productive, and we are living on zoom. Those are valuable days, too, but there has to be balance in all things, I believe.

So the past few months I have been taking a cue from my ancestral home and slowing down on Sundays as much as possible with my children. I did have two races back to back weekends recently, but for the most part our Sundays consist of a long run in the morning for me followed by a long walk and picnic with Katie and Eric. We walk together most afternoons, too, when we can, but on Sundays I pick a distant target.

The point is not to get there, although of course we do. We pack our picnic basket, and it is a time to try new tastes and to let healthy food fill our exercised bodies. We walk for miles. I do have the stroller for Eric, and Katie walks the whole way. Sometimes we take the longest paths we can find. We explore, we learn the roads of our town, and we breathe in the natural world. We inhale sunshine and sky. We look at flowers, trees, colors, tracks, anything and everything of interest.

I explain to them that this tradition of ours is one of the many ways I use to communicate to them: I love you, and I want to be with you. I want to present with you, my babies. I want to listen to your voices tell me things—for miles and hours. I want to do nothing all day except savor you, I tell them. I want the day to feel slow, so I can revel in you. This is a memory we are making. The only point is to be together, fully with each other. In a life where days can sometimes go way too fast, this is our way of honoring the entreaties of the older mothers: savor this time. I do. We do.

Because nothing feels longer, or better, than walking slowly for miles with children and having no particular agenda other than to just be. I remember my mom taking my brother and I for walks like this when we were young.

When we get to where we think we are going, we spread out our blanket and unpack our basket.

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Our picnic today

We eat a bit of lunch and then we play. I play, too. I love to play! That playground equipment is fun stuff! We also bring frisbees and a soccer ball and sand toys and whatever else we can squish into the stroller basket.

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Frisbee today: Katie is getting really great at throwing it. I couldn’t quite get it at her age (and evidence of this at the Brownie Olympics unfortunately still exists)!

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We hike around and play “Planet explorers and spaceship” games.

 

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And Katie taught me how to do this today! (Which was randomly exciting! I have never been able to make a bridge out of my body before).

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This trio selfie was taken at our second park of the day, actually. We had walked so long that we made a pit stop at a second park to use the bathroom and wash up and have a snack and play some more before heading on home.

 

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We were gone most of the day, and they conked out.  (I was REALLY gone all day…I woke up at sunrise, went for my 8 mi run, then came home and started getting us ready for picnic day).

You know, these days on the Internet we can run into all sorts of little articles here and there about having children. Most of them, to me, seem so negative on the whole or at the very least, are gripe sessions about how hard it is to have children. Is having children often challenging? Heck yes. But so? Isn’t there ultimate joy in challenge? Didn’t we all know it would be hard work? Aren’t those the kinds of questions most of us discuss with our spouses before we make the choice to have a child? My heart breaks a little every time I read something about how we’re not “supposed” to be all jazzed up about having our kids. So many of these articles are trading on people’s insecurities, which is exploitative, and then calling themselves “real” or “honest.”

You know what is real? I wanted my children. Really, really wanted them. It’s not a cakewalk, but anyone knows that (or should!) going in, and a person makes her choices. We certainly have our imperfect, raw, difficult moments here in the McGaugh house. And for those close to me, truly close to me, I share those moments. But I don’t go posting them all over the Internet where they are cached for, oh, ETERNITY so that one day our kiddos can go back and find it and think, “Wow, my mom was sure complaining about me that day. In public. Forever.”

What is real is that I honor my children. I honor WANTING them. I show respect not just to them, but to the process of making them with my husband, and to the very idea of wanting to create their lives in the first place. Being real does not mean having to lose one’s basic sense of human dignity.

I unapologetically love my children with unabashed enthusiasm and want to be with them. I revel in being with them. Even when it is hard. Except in the bathroom, of course.

That is one life truth of many which I feel my Shipshewana kinfolk still honor and understand: all that we have as treasure on Earth is pure time with one another. Slow, pure time. The kind of time we offer when we look into the eyes of a loved one and say, this time is only for you. This time is for being together, for forgetting our to-do lists, for not needing to go anywhere but where you are. This slow time is for a journey with you.

Let’s make that journey long on purpose.

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