“Where are you from?” Is a common first question people as when getting to know you. This is because where you come from and how you grew up plays a huge part in who you become.
As a mother, I understand that what I instill and root in my children now will strongly influence the adults they become… that is a huge responsibility and the census is that most parents fear they are not cut out for such an important task (thank goodness I’m not alone). However, if you fear messing up, chances are, you’re on the right track.
The life that made me was a bit unorthodox and there are parts of my childhood I know I don’t want my children to experience, but in an effort to not fall into “black and white thinking” I want to harvest the good and cull the bad because there were many aspects of my unique upbringing that I want to embrace.
I grew up in an older generation due to the fact that my parents adopted me when they were nearly 40 years old. My cousins were at least 30 years older than me so I grew up mostly with my second cousins and considered my first cousins more like aunts and uncles. Weird, I know. Also, my entire family on both my mother’s and my father’s side were born and raised in the deep south so culturally that impacted me as well.
I remember many summer mornings were spent out picking peas with my dad, aunts, granny and cousins while the sun was barely up and the dew still glistened on the spider webs. We would fill giant hampers with various kinds of peas as quickly as we could, knowing the midmorning sun was coming with a vengeance and we had a long day ahead of us if we wanted to get them in the freezer by bedtime. After we had picked enough peas for our entire family we were welcomed home to the sight of huge galvanized tubs and old sheets scattered on the back porch of my Granny’s house. The pea pods got washed several times (usually by my cousin and I) and then rationed out into pans and pots to be handed to any willing person to shell them. The entire day there was the smell of green pea shells and the sound of three generations laughing and storytelling until the light faded and the deafening cicadas were replaced by the occasional cricket and low hum of a brave mosquito.
Another great memory is one cold Thanksgiving night, after most of the festivities were over, my cousin and I (we were the same age and basically grew up as sisters) decided to leave the warmth of the tiny family-filled house and take to the night on our shared ATV. We drove up and down hills, through the woods, and down dirt roads. We had exciting adventures and deep conversations for hours but soon our thin southern blood couldn’t handle the cold any longer and we headed toward home. We hopped of our ATV and ran inside. We were met with warmth, the smell of coffee and pie, as well as the comfort of home that only family can give. My cousin and I grabbed a piece of pie to share and a couple cups of coffee (yep, in the south, 14 year olds drink coffee) and went out on the porch steps. Sitting there, with my partner in crime, with the sound of laughter coming out the cracked window and the day’s events whirling in our heads, we promised each other that we would make sure our kids got to experience moments like that in their childhood.
Looking back at some of my favorite memories, I realize that they all have common themes: Family, simplicity, and our unique home-grown culture. I crave that life for myself and my family today and some of the ways to instill the “old ways” in our present day family are not that difficult, but we just must be intentional. A few ways I do this are:
- Be present. When I’m with my family, I try to not think about or worry about other things (or mindlessly scroll through facebook). CONNECTION is the name of the game and that is what changes an interaction to engagement .
- I try to remember to choose experiences over stuff and the result has be beautiful. Instead of buying a toy for my daughter, we have a tea party with her favorite stuffed animals. Experiences do not clutter your house but they caress your soul.
- Keep things simple. We don’t need to have a full day’s agenda to have fun. Things as simple as going for a walk and exploring the woods near our house can spark so many conversations and learning opportunities for everyone involved. The best toys and games I had as a kid were not something you had to buy or assemble. I remember clearly one day that my cousin and I went out in our pear orchard (it was a year of abundance and we couldn’t eat all the pears or even give them away) and before we knew it we had found a stick and were playing “pear- ball” with the fallen (sometimes half rotten) pears and ended up showering in the water hose that night. We will always remember that and it wasn’t planned nor did it cost anything at all!
- Something that goes along with keeping things simple is the art of minimalism. This year our family has made a point of downsizing and simplifying our lives and our homes. In doing this we’ve realized that the time we spend cleaning and organizing has been lessened dramatically and therefore we have time and energy to use and enjoy the things we decide to keep. We also have more peace and patience with those we interact with both in and outside of our home. I will be writing more in another post about our journey of minimalism and how anyone can benefit from living mindfully.
- Family efforts in everyday tasks. Laundry, yard work, gardening, cooking… These are all things that need to get done in order for our home to run. Believe it or not, everyone needs to be needed; it doesn’t matter if they’re two or ninety-two, we want to feel like we have value and are a contributor in the life we live. Including everyone in larger tasks and projects was not abnormal back in the day and often times things would get done in so little time that a work day quickly became a day of quality time and engagement. Instead of huffing and puffing about how no one ever helps with the laundry or that your toddler knocks you folded stacks off the couch, engage with your tribe and work together so you can then play together when the work is done.
- Being busy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Think quality over quantity and remember your time (and your family’s time) is valuable. Chose how you spend it wisely and make sure that it contributes to the bigger picture and the mission you and your family personally are striving for.
I know we all didn’t have the most amazing childhoods, but I’m sure there are things in all our memories that we did appreciate and want to replicate in our present life and in our adult families. Instead of thinking about how you don’t want to parent, or how you will “never be that kind of family…” think on the things that impacted you for the better and cull out the rest. We do not have to repeat history, but knowing who you are and where you’re going was influenced by your roots can be a great catalyst toward the future you want to build with your own family.
Take some time to slow down and figure out what’s really important to you. Live intentionally, embrace your unique culture, and be authentic to yourself and others.
If you’re looking forward to hearing more about the things I’ve mentioned about my journey, please consider tipping so I will know you want more. After all, time and energy is valuable! Thank you.