She has stood there next to me what seems like 1000 times. Every time she makes that request for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she’s there with eager anticipation to devour the crustless, gooey creation. But then, the day came, where the constant request finally got to me, I was busy doing one of a million other things, and my response to my oldest was, “If you want a sandwich, you’re old enough. You can make it yourself.” And as sure as she is stubborn, that’s exactly what she did. I heard the rustling of the bread bag, the clinging of the knife to the jelly jar, and soon after the giggles of a five year old as she beamed from her artistry. She had, in fact, made her own peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Iowa is home. I’ve been driving back and forth to visit my family since I moved away more than a decade ago. Whether it was mother/daughter trips from French Lick, IN with Octavia, or trips from Green Bay with all three of my girls, there have been more than a handful of times that I’ve made the journey without my husband to assist. And yes, it is difficult to make a potty stop with three kids and only two hands. But once the girls hit the age where sleeping most of the trip wasn’t an option, I would direct them out their windows with an enthusiasm of “everything is amazing.” We’d admire the color of the sky, discuss the “regular cows” and the “chocolate milk cows”, and even comment about the “broccoli trees” as we drove over the bridge in Dubuque. In the beginning it worked best if I was incredibly enthusiastic, but now, as my girls are older, they’ve taken over the enthusiasm for me.
Every summer we attend the local Farmer’s Market. As a maker, it’s always been important to me to point out hard work, no matter what the medium. So we talk about the time the woman put in to make the winter hat, we discuss how the farmer woke up early to cut the fresh sweet corn, and we savor the talent it takes to make a tasty tamale. At craft shows, I love to find artists busy in their craft, as I can show my girls just a bit of what it takes to create the finished product. It’s my hope that through all of this, they will learn to appreciate more. And, just as importantly, I teach my girls to say “please” and “thank you,” because appreciation should not only be felt, but shown.
If there’s anything I love the most about living quietly in Wisconsin, it’s the ability to observe. No matter what the season, there’s always something to see. Tracks in the snow, the first sight of new growth popping up from the ground, chirping birds, or the million colors from falling leaves, there is unlimited awe in nature. I’m determined to pass this on to my children. I’m determined to teach them the beauty in this cycle called “life”. I can say undoubtedly that I have learned right along side them as well, as nature wasn’t always something I was passionate about. But if I think about it, life was always there for me to observe. Whether it be my grandpa and his giant patch of strawberries in the backyard, or my grandma and her marigolds along each side of the front porch during my early childhood summers, nature and its cycle through the seasons was always there for me to grow right alongside with it.
Within this generation my girls are a part of, I want to orchestrate observers. I want to teach them awareness. I want them to appreciate everything around them, and I want them to look for the good. With each year that passes and we’re offered more and more to “entertain” us, I want my girls to be content with what’s in front of them, but creative in how they approach it. I want them to crave imagination and find the excitement that comes in opening their minds to unlimited possibilities. And I want them to notice everyone around them, with the appreciation of what others can bring to a situation. I want them to be eager to include, respectful towards differences, and discerning towards what is right for how they want to live their lives. I’m determined to cultivate intuition, with the unbridled desire as a mom to bring to this world the strongest, most passionate children that will work one day to foster a little more good in this world.
As parents there’s always the joke that we buy our kids the new toys and all they want are the noisy pots and pans. Or how funny it is that a toddler displays unlimited excitement from an empty box. And then there’s your preschooler who you’ve told repeatedly not to jump on the couch, but she does it anyway, just to test your sanity. In all these stories, our children are orchestrating their way through life through the observation and execution of creativity. They’re branching outside the conventional uses of everyday things and creating their own happiness. Studies have shown that when children lie it’s a sign of intelligence, because, think about it, they’ve observed your reaction before and they’re attempting to avoid it. Smart kids. Those eyes we first gazed upon at the moment of their birth are powerful tools to shape not only their own world, but the world of those around them. It’s our great undertaking, as their parents, to live in an example that teaches them to see.