Chicken Soup for the Working Mom’s Soul
October 2007 page 67
The leaves were at the peak of their color on an Indian summer day, and I was stuck working in my windowless cubicle thinking about my sons. Have you ever thought about how easy it would be if we could drill a hole in the heads of our children and stuff them full the knowledge and wisdom?
We all want to teach our children the joys and rewards of life and keep them from harm, but how do we do it? Every mother has days when she feels like her children’s lives are slipping through her fingers, and today was one of those for me.
Sure, I did all the normal things moms do” Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Pee Wee football, school plays, and so on, but I felt like I was missing something important. My oldest son was twelve and on the verge of that dreaded stage of adolescence. His hormones played havoc with his loving personality. He wanted to be an adult but still had the emotions and judgment of a child. It was hard to draw him out, and he didn’t want to be hugged anymore. I felt him slipping away.
My seven-year- old son was full of the joy of being a child, but I was too busy working to see the world through his eyes. Before I could think about it or talk myself out of it, I asked my boss for a personal day without pay. Money was tight, and it would hurt our budget, but a day like this was a natural gift from God.
I didn’t have any specific plan, but I knew I wanted to enjoy the day with my sons. I stopped in their principal’s office and requested that they be released from school for the day. When the boys came to the office, I winked and gently nudged them through the door. A huge grin spread across my face as they giggled and piled into the car. I remember feeling like I was shedding years and ready for fun. As I pulled out of the parking lot, they asked me where we were going. I hadn’t thought about it until then, but the inspiration came in a flash.
“We’re going to Starved Rock State Park and make a memory,” I said.
It was a place we had talked about, but never seemed to get the time to explore. My kids loved camping and anything to do with animals and nature. It was the perfect place to spend a beautiful day. The park runs along the LaSalle River in Illinois and includes miles of wooded nature trails and a famous rock. The leaves of the maple and ash were full of vibrant colors and just beginning to fall.
During the two hours it took to get there, the kids chattered and asked questions. They were excited about walking the trails and couldn’t believe I was taking them on an adventure during a school day. I had a twinge of guilt about taking them out of school, but playing hooky together made it more fun and exciting for all of us. It was my way of saying, our time together was more important than anything else.
As we walked through the woods, we talked about everything that sprang into their minds. It was hard to keep up with the two of them as they jumped from one subject to another.
I found out what interested them and what scared them in the dark. My oldest son even took the time to show his brother things he thought were important. We crouched over and studied some forest critters’ tracks or droppings that he had found. They had a great time inventing stories about the woodland animals; watching them made me laugh and feel like crying at the same time. It was the first time in months that my oldest son looked relaxed and happy.
Reading all the plaques along the trail, we learned about the vegetation and the legends of Native Americans that lived near the river. We climbed “Starved Rock.” Rather than surrender, surrounded by their enemies, the tribe either starved or leaped to their deaths. At the top I told them about the Native Americans and their culture that fascinated me when I was their age. We talked about places, people, customs and religion, as I shared other parts of my childhood.
The sight of the maples in all their glory and the light reflecting off the river was gorgeous, but it was my children’s laughter that put a lump in my throat. We sat on the rock, watching boats on the river, when my seven-year-old asked,” What’s making a memory?’
“It’s doing something special that you’ll remember all your life. We’re making a happy memory.” I put my arms around them and hugged them close. The oldest didn’t pull away, and I felt like I’d broken through some adolescent barrier. That day I felt as close to my children as the day they were born.
The next evening I was doing the dishes, and the boys were catching up on their homework when the phone rang. It was my youngest son’s teacher. I felt like a child caught sneaking cookies, and ready to apologize for taking him out of school. The call was to let me know she thought spending time together was a wonderful idea. His teacher told me how excited and proud he was that his mom had taken him out of school to be with him and his brother.
The teacher said he told the whole class about the Native Americans, the woods, and all the animals that lived there. Instead of being upset because he’d missed a day, she thought he learned more in one day with me than in a week of school. She didn’t want me to make a habit of it, but she said more parents should take time to connect with their children. I told her I called it “making memories.”
When I picked up my oldest son from Boy Scouts a few days later, several of his friends were waiting for me. They wanted to know if it was true . Did I really take him out of school just to be with him? My son put his arm around me and a grin his face, as I explained about memories.
Don’t get me wrong. I never made a habit of taking them out of school, because education rated high on a list of things I wanted for my sons. There are times in life where you have to seize the moment. Children grow so fast and time slips by before you know it’s gone. You have to make an effort to listen to children, and making special memories show how much you love them. They need to know you cherish the time spent with them. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort.
Although we are caught up in the frantic pace of life and support for our family, sometimes we need to say, “Wait a minute. Stop. I have to spend time with my children.”
It can be as simple as making a batch of cookies. I found time spent with my children easier when they were little. I could hold them on my lap and give them a hug filled with love. It becomes harder as they grow older, so moms need to make a special effort. Be creative and find “memory makers.’
Throughout the years the boys and I made a lot of memories. We had sleepovers, tree trimming parties, Halloween parties, campouts, and more, but their favorite memory is the day we spent at Starved Rock. My sons are adults now, and they enjoy telling this story when the family gathers. You don’t need to spend money to make a memory; all you need is love and your imagination.