The Wilder Life: August 2016
By Amanda Jean Elliott
The park was too hot for bubble chasing. I mean it’s really summertime in South Louisiana and this mom really can’t take the heat. But, Wilder was bubbling with life. Like oozing it. He’s active. He’s alive in a way that you can quite literally feel sometimes when you stand near him.
There have been times I’ve wondered if ever I could tame this wildness of Wilder. Please, Lord, let him just settle down. Slow down. Good grief. And I’ll never forget the day I realized how absurd of a human I was. And so, now when the older person at the grocery looks at him and says, “Wow, he sure has a lot of energy” I smile back (sometimes genuine and sometimes wearily forced) and say, “I’m jealous. Can you imagine someone telling you to slow down and wishing away your energy?”
I had taken this child of mine to a baby shower. He was probably about two years old at the time and loved stairs. Up the stairs and down them. Touch this and look at that. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Up. Down. Up. And then? Yep, back down. It was one of those situations where I had to choose to go with him to the shower or not at all. And this insanely kind grandmother said something about what a joy it was to watch him learn about the world and work to master those stairs.
And that was it. That was the moment. Did I want this child to learn and thrive? Or did I want him to live in a box? He can spend his life later, if he so chooses, sitting at a desk all day (this … I cannot fathom). But, for now he needs to breathe and run and roam and explore and learn.
I remember hearing a report a few years ago about a new study that showed parents on their phones were far less patient with children and quick to punish. Oh, how very much our distraction does breed their need for attention. While children should be taught how to behave and learn how they are not the center of the universe and sometimes momma needs to look at her phone now and then … the reality is that they don’t know how to be a human.
That’s our job. And they learn by doing. Not by our words or by our punishment. The other day when we were at the park, sweating into a puddle, Wilder wanted us to play a chase the bubble game. (Like, I’m only running from someone dangerous so idk how this is going to work to chase bubbles voluntarily.) This little voice said “Someday he won’t care at all about bubbles. Or about asking you to be his play partner.” I could play with him or I could watch him play.
What kind of momma are you? Don’t miss the thing. Don’t spend your life doing the dishes and answering the emails while the children play and learn and grow and you never see it happen. We are all pulled in a million directions and doing the best we can.
But, maybe, just maybe you need to do less of your best. Less ironing and less gourmet meals. Less educational programs and planned magic. More play. More you and them and not one thing more. The bubbles cannot wait. They will be gone as quickly as they came.