A friend, whose oldest child is inching towards kindergarten, asked me recently what advice I had to offer. As a member of the Mom With Mileage Club, I guess she assumes I have a tiny taste of the hindsight that comes with parenting through several stages. I remember well clinging to the words of wisdom offered up by just about anyone in those earlier days of trying to discern just what on earth I was supposed to do with and for this family in my care.
The answers came over time–even though I still can’t claim to be an expert. There’s so much I’ve learned as a parent, as a woman. The voices of the wives and mothers who have been there, done that, and paused in their journeys to impart what they’ve gleaned as they’ve rocked babies, washed dishes, prayed over fevers … those voices have made my own experience as a woman that much more rich.
So now, what can I tell her? What can I say to a mother whose firstborn is rounding the corner to five? What can I offer a mother staring ahead at the shift just beyond her line of sight?
Keep the small stuff big.
What does that mean? It means that I’ve learned, in my nearly two decades at this gig, that it’s not usually the over-the-top, one-shot deals that count. It’s not really the amazing vacation, or the birthday cake you stayed up until midnight pressing little sugar flowers onto. Those are great things, lovely things. Those are the ebenezers in the life of a family. But the small stuff is the background music that plays behind those brilliant flashes of wonderful. And without that melody, all you’re left with are some disjointed attempts at “quality time” strung together haphazardly.
So keep the small stuff big.
Craft traditions. They don’t have to be huge or expensive. Walk to the mailbox together every day after lunch, no matter the weather. Your child will remember. Eat the first cucumber from your garden each year without slicing it. Your kids will tell your grandchildren about it. Read Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day on the first white morning of every winter. You’ll hear your children do the same.
Make time. Cook together. Play games. Sing every chance you get. Drink more tea. Sit still, with idle hands.
Be present. Don’t let your phone be more important than your kids. Set aside distractions, look your child in the eye, and listen. Look around you and drink it in. Laugh– often.
Small stuff, all of it. But huge, too.
Because these are the memories of you that your children will carry with them. This is the overall feeling of the childhood they only have once. Far from being minute, the small memories will be the echo chamber of their memory for their entire lives. These are the scenes they will feel, they will know.
Be faithful in those little things, young mothers, because so much is built on the foundation of the smallest offerings. Let go of the expectations for the big things, and focus instead on the small ones, and be blessed. That’s my advice.