Sarah Bessey has a neat little series of posts in which she share her practices of parenting. This week she’s invited readers to share theirs. Even if not just for her collection of posts, I wonder if this might be a helpful practice for me to write such things out over time. (I call ours rhythms and practices.) Here’s a simple one, but one we’re loving:
Making Lemonade Memories
While reading The Happiness Project, I encountered the story of a father who was repeatedly distressed that his small children were waking up at 5a.m. on weekends. When he wanted to be sleeping in. So, he decided to bundle up the kids each Saturday morning and take them to the playground or a restaurant with an indoor playground. They’d usually be the only ones there and they’d often get a snack or treat while out. Now his kids sleep in, and guess what he misses? The days when his kids didn’t sleep in and they shared those special memories together.
My friend Johanna also wrote earlier last year about when her son got up early and she was tempted to send him back to bed. But she quickly remembered the memories she shared with her dad when they alone shared the early morning hours, and reflects, “Thank you, Dad, for not sending me back to bed and giving me those cherished memories.”
Of course, it’s not just about making fun memories out of early mornings. (And at our house, I have my husband to thank for this. He often gets up very early, works a couple of hours, and then spends a chunk of breakfast and play time with our girls before going to work again for the day. Plus, with some snuggling, my girls do fall back asleep most days when they wake up super, super early.) There are plenty of other occasions where what seems like an inconvenience might actually be an opportunity.
Right now, our girls aren’t needing naps most days. During the week, they have a rest time of playing quietly in their beds, albeit brief. But on Sundays after church, we put our youngest (2 years) down for a short nap, and then rotate the parent who takes our oldest out for a special time together. (This way the other parent gets an uninterrupted Sunday afternoon time of rest with the option of resting in a bed.) Sometimes we just go to a bookstore, other times out for coffee, or to play at a playground. But it’s made some special memories of spending some precious time with our oldest. It’s a phase I imagine will be gone before we know it. Last week, our 2-year-old had already taken a nap on Saturday, and so when we tried for a Sunday afternoon nap, she just wasn’t tired enough to need one. Since it was my husband’s turn, he took both girls out for a milkshake and they had the best of times. It’s a time we both look forward to, whether we’re resting at home or having a relaxing time out with our little girl. Then on Sunday evenings we all spend our day of rest together.
We’re also not big cold-weather fans, or ones who look forward to dark dreary days. (When summer hits, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a clean house most of the time: my girls will be outside all day, though if I’m with them that means I’ll also have clean kitchen unless I make effort to make meals ahead of time. :)) So, we’ve enjoyed the wintery days (whatever that means when it’s 50’s all through January) with lots of extra baking and enjoying family movie nights watching Families of the World DVDs some winter nights. Our girls thrive on little routines and “special occasions” and those are what their growing memories are full of already. Sometimes it only takes and extra 10 or 15 minutes extra of prep time on our end, but those minutes are building a lifetime of memories for my girls (and for us as parents, too).
The tasks that could potentially be annoyances when children want to get involved become fun family activities when we all pitch in together. An extra chair, an extra ten minutes, a little bit of extra work, but a lot of extra memories and time well spent working and learning alongside one another. The potential mess of a pile of pillows removed from an already made bed, or a family who piles them all together and dives in laughing.
This practice is nothing profound, and I guess it’s what many call “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” (We like lemonade, too!) But with intentionally holding the thought in the back of our minds to purposefully make our potentially draining times into memorable days, it’s exciting to smile at the future and see there are going to be many more hidden opportunities to do so.
They say of these years, “the days are long, but the years are short.” (I’m not sure who they are, because sometimes I think the days are short, too.) They also say, “make lemonade out of the lemons.” And again, I’m not sure these days always qualify as lemons, either. But there you have it: one simple, ordinary practice that makes the short years dearer, that makes long days sweeter: our lemonade memories.