#6 Get in the habit of writing things down. Before I had kids, I could remember all the phone numbers, and what was happening when and with whom. Now, if I’m simply asked what day it is, I stare blankly with a confused look on my face. Day? What is ‘day’? Honestly, the wheels are spinning, but nothing is coming to the surface. Same thing when someone asks me how old I am. (I have to ask my husband, or figure out how old he is and subtract a year, or recall what year I was born and count up. Isn’t that pathetic?) I used to hear that you lose your memory when you have kids. But I think that you still have the same amount of memory, it just gets spread a lot thinner. So it’s basically useless. Write it down!
#7 Cereal is an acceptable dinner occasionally. No guilt allowed!
#9 Now, this is one that I really believe in: Let kids get good and filthy in the yard! I think it’s good for their immune systems (as long as your yard is chemical-free) and good for their souls. Kids were made for the outdoors. I love watching my kids getting dirty in the yard while enjoying God’s creation. Nothing is as simple and pure as that. It’s what childhood should be made of!
And it’s sad because I actually had to teach my kids that it’s okay to get dirty. My husband’s first reaction when they played was always, “Stay out of the mud! Get out of the puddle! Don’t get your clothes dirty!” But I come from a different view. I was the muddy, tree-climbing, outside-till-dark kind of kid. My greatest memories were (and still are) outdoor ones. (Think about it! God made us to be outside in gardens . . . naked! That must explain the phase Ryder was going through!)
I was always making mud-pies, mixing “cake batter” made with sticks and berries, or raking the fallen leaves into “houses” to play in. But the thing that I loved doing the most was climbing trees. You can learn a lot from being outdoors. And one thing that climbing trees taught me was that I was remarkably good at falling out of them and that I can have an incredible lack of judgment sometimes.
When I was a kid, I thought it was be a good idea to climb to the top of the maple tree in our backyard to collect leaves, even though it had just rained. I was making my neighbor a decoration. I had taken one leaf and began inserting the stems of other leaves through it so that I could make a . . .a? . . .a pile of leaves. And the large, pretty leaves were at the top of the tree. So I grabbed a metal lawn chair and placed it under the tree to reach the bottom branch. Then I began my long, arduous climb to the top. I made it, too. And I sat up there filling up my leaf bouquet until it was full and beautiful.
Then I started the trip down. Well, as anyone who has ever climbed trees knows, the trip down is a lot harder than the trip up. And I had to maneuver carefully because I had a fragile decoration in my hands. However, like any child that lives in the moment, I forgot all about the rain. And the second my foot hit the first branch down, it slipped off.
Now, I don’t know how this happened because it happened so fast; but somehow I managed to fall from the top of the tree in a standing position, with my legs spread apart, and I didn’t hit one branch before I landed square on top of the chair and bent it in half between my legs. And I didn’t drop the decoration!
Another time, I had the brilliant idea to hang upside down from the branch of that tree, holding only the ends of a towel that was draped over it. I wanted to see if I could hang all the way upside-down in a standing position. (Yeah, I know . . . Where was my mother?) So I grabbed a towel and threw it over the lowest branch. Then holding one end of the towel in each hand, I began walking my feet up the tree trunk until I was basically upside-down.
Any adult would know that they could not possibly keep a tight grip on the ends of the towel with all their body weight pulling on it. But I was smarter than an adult. I was a ten-year-old! Sure enough, the towel slipped from my hands and I crashed to the ground on my head (the natural consequence of being upside-down). It really rang my bell. My head pounded and spun for a few minutes, as I sat there dazed and confused.
When the spinning stopped and I figured out where I was and what happened, it dawned on me: This was not a good idea . . . not without a helmet! I ran to the garage and crammed my little brother’s way-too-small, plastic football helmet on my head and tried again. How I made it to adulthood is a miracle! (But not surprisingly, I did have my fair share of trips to the emergency room. I must have been a parent’s nightmare.)
These experiences and my fond memories of mud have helped me formulate my theory: “If they are not dirty enough then they weren’t having enough fun.” And that is something I have taught my boys! In fact, I send them back outside again if they are not dirty enough. (They can always take baths. When we remember to!) Although, I am out there all the time yelling things like, “Don’t stand on the slide, you could get hurt!” “Don’t run with that stick, you could get hurt!” “Don’t run in the driveway, you could get hurt!”
I know you may think that’s an overreaction. But let me tell you this story. When my friend’s husband, Jon, was a kid, his mom used to tell him and his brothers not to run on the sidewalk or else they could fall and break their wrists. Well, one day, Jon’s brother was running on the sidewalk, and Jon reminded him not to do that. And then in an over-exaggerated, mocking demonstration of what not to do, Jon ran down the sidewalk saying something like, “See, we’re not supposed to run down the sidewalk because we might . . .” and then he fell and broke his wrists. Both of them! See, we mothers do know a thing or two! (And, Jon, I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, I love that story! Sorry for your wrists, but it is so poetically sit-comish! A classic!)
Anyway, my memories of falling out of trees have also helped me to be a little more understanding of the childish things that kids do that completely defy reason and explanation. You know, those What-on-earth-were-you-thinking moments. Honestly, when I was walking up that tree, I can say that I was thinking - just in my own, ten-year-old, “I have to learn about the laws of physics for myself” way.
#10 So remember that you were once a kid, too. Go easy on your children when they do foolish things. I’m remembering a time when I was able to see a little of myself in my firstborn. We were all outside in the backyard, and one of the boys was flying away on the swing-set glider. I have to say, those things have always scared me. They are the perfect height and velocity to do some real damage to someone’s face.
I was very pregnant and resting on the back steps watching the children play. Kody came over to me to give me a little kiss, as he often does. (He is a touchy-feely kind of kid. I love that!) And then he turned around and made a bee-line . . . directly for the glider. I could see it in slow motion. It was as if some mysterious force was pulling him right to it, and I watched the glider fly full force into his face. I jumped up just as it hit and began running across the yard to him.
Now, you know how people look when they run the bat race? You run down, put your forehead on the bat, spin around three times and then try to run back. It’s great fun to watch! Especially when it’s a hugely pregnant, very short woman running in sheer terror! Because of my huge belly, my center of gravity was so off that I zigged and zagged in drunken, bat-race fashion across the yard. I was a five-foot-tall Weeble wobbling all over as the weight of my belly propelled my top-half forward faster than my legs could catch up. But I didn’t fall down. (My husband said it was amazing to watch!)
When I got to him, I began examining his face and I said what every good, concerned mother says, “WHAT ON EARTH were you thinking? You ran right for it! What were you trying to do, Kody? You could have smashed your teeth out!”
And the whole time he was saying, “Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” When it dawned on me that he was apologizing to me for getting his face smashed, and when I could tell that he was amazingly alright (it hit him in the top lip - a half-inch higher would have broken his nose and a half-inch lower would have bust his teeth out. Thank you, Lord!), I changed my tune.
“Kody, you don’t have to apologize to me. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I was just so scared that you were hurt. You are not in trouble for anything. I’m just so glad you are alright.”
He told me that he was running to his brother on the glider, and that he did not realize that while it was swinging away from him as he ran toward it, it would meet him square in the face on its return trip back. After I caught my breath and my head stopped spinning and my vision returned to normal, I told him about my story of climbing and falling out of that tree. I could relate to the sheer lack of thinking things through. I wanted him to realize that we all do things like that. It’s a part of growing up and learning those pesky laws of physics.
[Honestly, though, I always thought it would be a younger child who wasn’t paying attention that would get hit by the glider. Not an older one running right for it. Kids are surprising like that! Remember . . . Expect the Unexpected! Oh, and with boys especially, you should be praying this daily, “Lord, protect them from themselves!”
Example: Jason had installed little hooks on the end of the boys’ bunk-bed so that they could hang up their jackets. And one day, I walked into the room to find Ryder sitting in a laundry basket that was HANGING from one of the hooks by a belt that he had attached to it. He was trying to make a little pulley system with a suspended basket that he could ride in up to the top of the bunk-bed. I was amazed at his ingenuity but told him to never do that again! Dear God, protect him from himself!]