We are always learning from our children aren’t we? Constant learning, tireless patience, relentless unselfishness, and opportunity to be kind verses right.
It is an ever-evolving process that will never end. And I relish that challenge especially because I feel like I put a lot of time and effort in making the relationships in my life priority #1. And that is one (out of many) main reasons I wanted to have my kids. I knew it would be a way for me to grow as a person, learn and challenge myself, always learning about love.
By no means am I a proponent that this is the only way to learn about love. Absolutely not.
But being a human parent has many rewards and many challenges. And it’s just the daily grind of today’s routine that can get very stressful. I envy the generations before us where time was slower and more paced.
My husband is in part-time online school on top of his full time job. And that brings many challenges. So when it comes time this year, this fall to do things that my now 5-year old son is so excited for - like go to the pumpkin patch and carve pumpkins, it is all on me to fit into our busy schedule.
This past weekend we did have a glorious day to enjoy the pumpkin farm which is a St. Louis tradition. And my husband got to join us.
But for past two weeks I’ve promised Grant, my son, that we “will do the pumpkins soon . . .” Well it’s now about 8 days away from Halloween and guess what? Haven’t carved the pumpkins yet. They have been patiently waiting sitting on our porch.
Looking ahead at a very busy week coming up, it seemed if we were going to do this, we needed to do it . . . .like yesterday or Halloween will be here and gone.
So with a heavy, (and I mean heavy!) sign, with Grant’s excited insistence, “is it today mama we can do the pumpkins?,” I decided I guess I better “get it over with.”
And with that happy thought, that’s exactly what a parent often thinks right? Or at least I do (LOL!). Carving the pumpkins is not fun. And whoever actually manufactures these tools that are sold each year to help with the carving, seriously help us. Do the manufacturers actually ever USE THEM?! They suck! Which inevitably makes the whole process even harder, more difficult and more . . . irritating.
Grant remembered carving from last year. He forgot about the “gooey gunk” that every adult is aware of that comes with carving pumpkins - yuck! And every parent also knows that even though your little girl or guy really really wants to help, they . . . can’t.
So of course it ends up falling on YOU. Or me, as it were. And all I kept thinking was that for another year my husband GOT OUT OF THIS! How did that happen? (oh I’m studying honey!).
I tell Grant to go get the pumpkins as I sit down and decide, I guess I’m doing this. Even though the house is complete chaos, I have mountains of laundry (because finally have to switch summer to winter wardrobe not just for myself, but for the kids and I), piles of new clothes I just bought to go through, need to change sheets on our bed, pick up EVERY SINGLE LITTLE TOY that is around the house, clean up after dinner, feed Trey (my 6 month old who is just starting solid foods), take trash out because it’s trash day, and THEN start the night-time routine with both of them. By myself.
Ok. I can do this! And before I spiral down into negativity-land, I just tell myself to not think about it and get it done.
Grant is appalled at the “gunk” inside. He did “not remember that part.” So of course that’s something that I was hoping he could “help with.” He decides it’s too yucky for him so of course I’m doing all of that for 3 big pumpkins.
Also in those carving kits are the photos of stupid overly complicated carving masterpieces that come with the instructions. Is it just me or is everything about the carving tool kit irritating as hell!
I look at that and of course Grant wants to do a ghost! Yeah . . . when hell freezes over kid. Looking at the “BOO!” word written in elaborate script or a witch flying on her broom, I’m like who the heck does this stuff? Has time for this? Is an artist? (or wait I am but I can promptly say this I’m not an illustrator! Yeah that’s my excuse!). And if you are one of those parents sincerely I envy you because that’s super cool.
But I am not. And looking at this stuff just reminds me of sitting in Las Vegas in a pool two weekends ago trying to relax and soak in the atmosphere, while bikini-clad young women prance around in designer swimsuits with a cocktail in their hands. And all the men drooling over them.
All power to them, there’s nothing wrong with female sexuality. But right that moment, for me, looking down at my one piece with a black cover-up, I scream “MOM HERE” with a still-look-like-I’m-pregnant-stomach. Just doesn’t make me feel good.
Needless to say, this whole process does not make me feel very good or accomplished.
I start going at it, square for the stem/head, scrapping and digging out the goop and seeds. I’m not the most proficient but I get it done. Three big pumpkins down. Now the faces.
Grant is beside me the entire time leaning over, examining and giving me directions. I tell him to help and he tries and tries, but just can’t get over the goop. It’s just “too yucky mama.” Yeah I KNOW!
I’m a visual person, so even though I am an artist, and you would think that I could conjure up my own jack o’ lantern faces, I don’t want to. So I google “simple jack o’lantern faces for carving pumpkins.” You’d be amazed at the super creative designs people create with pumpkins!
Ok, I can do squares and the square smile. I sit there and carve it out - Grant actually helping to pull out the triangles for the eyes when I’m finished to make the holes. He also helps play with my 6 month old who is sitting in his walker, yelling and grunting, starting to squeal.
We don’t have much time. Maybe minutes until Trey (my 6 month old) starts screaming his head off for more bottle.
Next one, a simple mean face. I can do that. Triangles slanted on their sides to look like the pumpkin is mad. Yeah I’m feeling it. Carve out that one and 2 down, 1 to go.
Grant is beside himself, so excited. We have four small pumpkins and I’m not doing those. So I tell him to start drawing his own faces. With a black marker he throws himself into drawing these little tiny faces.
I actually look up in between carving and pause to smile. I love it when he draws or paints or does anything art-related. Obviously. But he’s too busy to sit and draw most of the time now.
He used to ask to paint with me when he was very little. I have hundreds of drawings and paintings that will always be so precious to me, five of them hang in our house they are beautifully abstract.
Here he’s practicing his eyes, head, mouth and telling me it’s dad, himself, mom and Trey. Awesome. I love it I tell him.
Last pumpkin. Simple, simple, simple. What else is super simple?! Got it! Circles that’s simple. I carve three circles, two for eyes and one big one for the “O” of the mouth. Awesome. DONE!
I sit there for a second. Trey is almost in melt-down mode since it’s hovering on the witching hour to start the night routine - shower, story, bedtime.
Grant is just huge smiles and giggles and so proud of us. “You are such a good artist mommie!” Thanks hon. “Mama you are the best mama out there.” Again, thanks, I think?! It almost sounds sarcastic but I know for sure it’s not. It’s absolutely genuine. “Mama we did good, I love my pumpkins!”
So simple. I almost missed it.
Yeah. I took a deep breath to just take a moment to soak it all in. My son bursting with joy and happiness from . . . pumpkin-face-making. It actually was fun for him. Yes he hardly did any work. But he was beside me the entire time, chatting and playing with Trey while I worked. And after I finished a pumpkin, he was thrilled with each result.
Such simple delight when pulling out one triangle at a time to build the face and see it come to life so to speak. He was ecstatic!
And that was so little for me to do, to give him these moments of fun. Hardly took that much effort and he was thrilled.
And what’s more, it was an activity together. We spent quality time together and I felt all warm and glowing. I was helping him build those kid memories one by one. He may not remember this time exactly, but he will remember this time of the year with joy. Especially since it’s both of our birthdays, we have a lot of celebrating together.
My family was not the greatest at celebrating the holidays, any holiday. Or doing the tradition thing. And I vowed to myself that I would do that with my kids.
And I had almost forgotten that in the midst of the grind of routine, schedules, life, taking care of little kids, etc. Yes it’s exhausting, yes it’s a challenge. There’s the same thing every day and not a lot of reward for it in the end on our end. We’re working our tails off as parents.
But for Grant, last night was so much fun he had been looking forward to it “forever” and we finally got to do the faces. Did he notice my frustrations or irritation? No. In fact his happy energy was infectious.
Reminds me to allow my kids to take the lead more often, follow their innocent and simple pleasures. Earlier that evening he played and played with an amazon box while I did the dishes.
Yes, these moments are the gems of childhood. We, as their parents, should be the guardians of those moments, the protectors of this special time. Where they will never get back. And will be gone and grown up in a blink of an eye.
We don’t have much time. In fact we have few precious minutes. Especially in today’s society where every screen imaginable is competing for their brains.
Slow down, make space, find pace within the daily grind. And follow the child’s lead to be happily content with the simple joys.
And I almost missed it.