Small moments, and a snowman

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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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11 Comments

  1. Posted January 15, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I was going to comment about my similar technology problem, but that was getting long. Instead, I’ll just say that I also don’t think it’s a contradiction that keeping it simple can include grand plans occasionally. We operate this way too. We are homebodies by default (though my husband is far less so) and we tend to enjoy the smaller, closer things in life. But, when we do undertake grander plans, I think her (and our) appreciation is more profound, and it is not taken for granted. I feel like I see that happening with some young people today; so much, so early. I think limiting the bigger trips also allows more comparative context to filter in when you’re there. Honestly, we can afford to do far more grander things than we do, but we consciously otherwise so that she gains an appreciation for all that she does have or has seen so far, if that makes sense. Part of it is not wanting to gild the lily of the perks that come with being an only child (undivided attention, more financial resources, etc.), but I think there’s also an element of trying to avoid giving her the instant gratification that is so easily attained these days. I hope that our approach shows her that all of us can be content and joyful with just the essentials: family, friends and time together, no matter where it is. (Sorry I am always so long-winded!)

  2. Posted January 15, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Your daughter!! You’ve taught her so much, just by being you. And now she’s teaching you in return. What a beautiful exchange. I’m feeling the same way about technology lately — loving it for the connections it makes possible, and also aware that even those connections come at a price. Thanks for expanding my own conversation with myself!

  3. Posted January 15, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Oh, this makes my heart feel so full! To know someone I adore and respect as a writer and human being is walking alongside me on this Hands Free journey is truly a gift. I am so encouraged by what you share! Little steps toward connection = small moments that last forever in our memory banks.

    THANK YOU, my friend.

  4. Posted January 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh that note. That moment has just left me smiling. And in tears. This is beautiful.

  5. Posted January 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Every time you mention Grace I am struck by how remarkable she is. What a thoughtful, cool kid. You must be so proud of her. Agree on all of the above. xoxo

  6. Posted January 16, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous post that is a HUGE remind to myself to try to do just this. I think Grace sounds like one of the sweetest kids out there — she’s amazing (Whit, too). I have much more to say and want to read every link in here, but it will have to wait until later. Thanks, Lindsey! You generously give out wisdom on a daily basis. It’s appreciated. xox

  7. Gale
    Posted January 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Grace really is quite something. I can’t imagine many kids having the levels of gratitude, eloquence, and creativity (as you mentioned) as she does. This post warms my heart and I wish I could be a fly on the wall in your home to watch what you do to so firmly instill these values in your kids.

  8. Posted January 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Attention, which is, after all, love incarnate.

    Oh I love this. I so struggle with this as well and I love the snowman story. Honestly, it really seems like you DO pay attention. And you clearly are teaching your children this. But I so appreciate your words about the tug of war between being present and all that demands our attention. I will remember this.

  9. Posted January 17, 2014 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    I’m just going to add my voice to the chorus here and say that every time I read about Grace I’m in awe of what a caring, sweet and thoughtful girl she seems to be. You done good, mama. ;)

    I think we all need to refocus continually in order to stay present with our kids, something that maybe gets easier with practice and over time. (I often think about our parent’s generation and if they had this same struggle without iPhones and internet.)

    And YES to cherishing the small moments!

  10. Posted January 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    AH, yes. I’d call it a New Year’s resolution to put down my phone, but really I made this intention long before 2014. And still, it is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. It’s not just my phone, it’s my computer, it’s my business, it’s the housework. Sometimes I believe there is not enough of me to go around. Tis the greatest challenge of motherhood. And yet, when we look back, we will never regret those precious moments we spent unplugged, absorbing the sweetness of the fruits of our womb. What a lovely little thank you note from your daughter. You are both lucky :)

  11. Posted January 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Such a good post Linsey. “Attention, which is after all, love incarnate.” I’m going to be holding that thought in my mind all weekend…