Yesterday afternoon, I did a very Texan Mom thing. I ran errands all morning, dropping off lunches at forgetful teen’s job and packing the minivan with sale items from Aldis and driving across the metroplex to pick up symphony music and getting a library card at yet another library because we can never, never, ever have enough libraries with enough books.
But the Texas Mom thing grew as the full morning gave way to an empty belly. Driving down the country highway in my “sports minivan,” (the awesome Honda Odyssey with all the windows down), past acre after acre of ranches and cattle farms, I could only think of one thing:
Pulling into the gravel driveway, I left the sports minivan to air out a bit while my young son and teenaged daughter crunched through the dusty path beside me to the food truck. Grins wide with hopeful expectation, we fished out a cool drink and bag of chips from the bright buckets and staked our claim on a shady picnic table overlooking the grazing cattle. Yes, my bovine friends, we intend to feast upon you whilst gazing upon you. Because that’s the Texas way. “Only in Texas would people relish watching the animals you are eating,” Adana remarked.
Fortunately, the burgers take a few minutes to grill, because that gives us plenty of time to throw beanbags into the corn hole and marvel at Xzavian’s amazing horseshoe game. He has terrible form, but for someone not yet nine, he can throw really well. Don’t ask how well I throw.
Ten minutes and half-a-burger later, we sat staring over the barbed-wire fence at the farm in the distance and sighing with true, physical and spiritual contentment. The gentle breeze whispered through the sports minivan, around our hair, and across the horizon, lifting up the unspoken praises of three happy, hungry hearts finding satisfaction in the simple pleasure of beefy lunch outdoors.
“This is the best,” Xzavian murmured.
“It’s so fun. We used to have fun all the time like this, remember, Mom? Back when we were little, and we had picnics and went to the park and got sweaty running down the hills and we always had fun. Back then . . . ” Adana’s voice trailed off as she savored the memory.
Back then? We haven’t had fun in nearly a decade? Surely that wasn’t the case. We have an incredibly fun life. We have soccer games and symphony concerts and traveling and homeschooling and lots of library visits.
But when I look at the calendar, I realize she’s right. The Big Events crowd into week after week — performances and exams and appointments and deadlines. And they are fun, they are great memories, they are enriching. We can’t stop enriching.
But have I forgotten the normal?
My thoughts went back to foster care training a couple days ago and the concept of normalcy. The state protective agency prioritizes normalcy for children in the foster system, their right to experience age- and developmentally-appropriate experiences typical of children in . . . normal families. The regular life we take for granted. The simple pleasures. The hot sun and warm breezes and outside food.
So what if the most extraordinary thing I do for my children — bio and adopted — is to provide them normalcy?
What if the most important moments in their lives — the times that build their character and fill their hearts with love and shape their personalities and fill up their memory storehouses — are the simple, ordinary hours?
- picnics at the park
- grocery shopping early in the morning while eating bagels we have not yet paid for
- walking through the woods
- driving fast down country lanes in the sports minivan
- dance-offs in the kitchen
- running through the sprinkler
- nerf gun wars inside the house
- laying in the grass watching the clouds go by
- playing in the rain
- counting the days until birthdays
- inviting friends over
- movies on the family room floor with pillows and blanket forts
- fresh baked cookies
You know, all those things we try to do (and we do do them sporadically) but that never make it to a top priority. Now, they are my top priority.
If being an ordinary mom is extraordinary, how earth-shatteringly amazing is normal childhood?
How are you reclaiming normalcy?
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