Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lessons from a 4 year old

Our daughter is 4 ½ years old. Just take an example of our typical day together. I am awakened each morning with the touch of her small, soft hand gently stroking my hair and face. "Mama... Mama" she says until I moan an answer. "I want to snuggle in bed with you ," she says. I lazily roll over and let her come snuggle in bed, which at this age she seems to enjoy best. So there we are all snuggled up in bed it is wonderful. Sometimes our youngest Azeda Peace does not like this and will protest stating that she wants to nurse so she get her "own" snuggle time.

During this time, our seven year old jumps up, greets us all with a hug and is off to open all of the windows and curtains in the house and into the backyard to greet the day . My husband and I look at each other and smile, knowing too well that this morning ritual will end soon as she will be off with him to start the day... and so we allow ourselves to savor in each and every moment.

After getting her morning snuggles, she is ready to go. "Come on Kelly, Come on Ben" as she stands at the foot of the beds handing us our clothes... I am hungry and I need my hot cocoa" I am pleased that she knows this routine and her day flows with such a familiar rhythm. We get up, and by now, Gabrial has prepared a surprise breakfast (or at least set the table). "Wow Gabe, Thank you!" says Brook as she looks over each item with awe and wonder. (Yes, with awe, wonder and complete surprise, each and every day!)

After breakfast we set about our day's work. Each day the work is different, but we try to follow our weekly rhythm. Almost every day involves some sort of errand in the car and this is her favorite because Gabe knows the car isn't too much fun, so he opts to stay at home. This makes it all the more special for Brook as I believe she thinks that this too is "women's work". She kisses the men goodbye and we are off.

I used to feel guilty taking such a young child in the car to do the errands. I believed that it wasn't really the natural way, and that children didn't need to be exposed to vehicles, traffic, lines at the grocery store, etc. But I've changed my views as well as where and how I go about the errands. For example, we no longer shop at the mega-super stores and markets. It is a completely different experience for children to visit a small produce stand instead. We visit the local Co-op where we see the same familiar faces each week as we shop. We believe this show of support for smaller businesses is beneficial to our community as well as to our children.
Brook loves these errands. When she is offered a sample of cheese, or a cookie, she beams with joy and expresses a heartfelt "Thank you!" The post office is where she gathers her "business" and is always sure to take a few extra colorful sheets (of hold mail forms, certified mail and registered mail forms) home for her brother. After each stop she talks about it all the way to the next stop or until we get home. She is also so excited about money and has her "own" special purse for her coins and loves to collect any receipts she gets. She is also always thinking of her older Brother. While at the store she will say "I want to get a cheese for me and one For Gabe".

When we get home, we allow the natural rhythms of our moods, the day's events, the menu, the weather, etc. shape our day. The great advantage of choosing to work at home (very simply and frugally) allows us this luxury. We made the decision when we decided to have children that "careers" would be placed on hold, and more creative endeavors would have to take shape. This is a great asset to home schooling as well, because the children learn very much from having to "make something from nothing" so to speak.

But the magic of spending so much time with a four and a half year old is still one of the greatest gifts and benefits of choosing our lifestyle. Sometimes I see frustrated mothers at the store with their children. The children look so tired and stressed out, as does mom. I have gotten the comment " Today is just one of those days" from these mothers... as if they are seeking compassion and a comrade in their suffering. I politely smile and yet feel so hurt inside, thinking how society's expectations and "norms" have clouded their own experiences.

I think of how much pure joy is stolen from children in today's world. How many children get the wonderful gift of their parent's attentions? Most of our children grow up cynical and without any magic at all in their lives. This is why we have chosen this path. This is why we seek to build community with others who share the same ideals. This is why we study, we read and we get informed. This is the reason why we parent the way we do. It's not just the children's birthright. It's not a gift for the children. It is the way it should be.
My wonderful and brilliant Four and a half-year-old taught me that lesson. And I am forever thankful.

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