This, right here: my favorite moment of the winter break. On the last weekend, Grace made a scavenger hunt for Matt and me, which took us all over the house with clues that each mentioned a cherished memory of our time off. These included the snow fort she and Whit had built, Old Sturbridge Village, skating outdoors during a cold snap, dinner with our dear family friends, and the New Year’s dinner that the four of us had and the board games we played after.
The scavenger hunt culminated here, with this big snowman and words of thanks, on our bed. I sat down and folded Grace in my arms, eyes swimming with tears.
Thank you, I whispered into her ear. Sometimes her creativity and generosity take my breath away, as does her visible gratitude for this life of hers (and of ours).
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that scavenger hunt or that snowman. What it reminds me is that children do not need grand plans to create special memories. Yes, maybe I’m contradicting myself, since I know I recently vowed to help my children see the world. But maybe these two things can coexist. And, dare I say it, I think this snowman and this series of reminders of how important little experiences can be actually means more to me than do large adventures. As I said in August, I am rarely prouder of my children than when they enjoy small moments.
This is an absolute priority for me as a parent: protecting Grace and Whit’s propensity towards wonder and their predilection to be overjoyed by small things. Grace’s scavenger hunt reminded me of this, and of what I believe children need and want above all else: our attention. Attention, which is, after all, love incarnate. What we pay attention to blooms. Being with them, in the moments big and small, that’s what matters. That’s why the snowman exists: because in those ordinary experiences – sledding, building a fort, sitting around a dinner table, laughing at a board game – I was truly there.
I know this, but I needed the reminder.
The truth is I need to refocus on this. I’m embracing what Rachel May Stafford advocates in Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters. On Ali Edwards’ blog I read about Rachel’s suggestion to publicly declare the intention to be more Hands Free, so I am doing that now: I must rededicate myself to the practice of being present with my children. I must put down my iphone. I must trust that my work and personal email will wait. I must remember the critical, essential importance of just being with Grace and Whit.
I must remember the snowman. I apparently could do it over winter break. Now I need to keep doing it.
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