936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
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My family has decided to begin a new tradition of wearing our walking shoes to church. This tradition stemmed out of the realization that there are some very nice hiking trails and paths close to our church.
And so this morning as we rushed through our Sunday morning rituals of waking too late, downing coffee while stripping the boys of pajamas and throwing some semblance of “nice” clothes on them, throwing together breakfast, brushing teeth, and dressing ourselves, we also packed a picnic bag and tied on our walking shoes before heading out the door.
I have to admit I was a little distracted during church. The sun was shining outside, dancing atop a 75 degree day, and my walking shoes were begging for use. And so after service had ended, upon the recommendation of friends, we found ourselves at a nature center not far from church.
We pulled in, unpacked our picnic lunch, smeared organic mayo on polenta bread, havarti, ham, turkey. Grapes. Pickled Brussels sprouts. Cookies. Kombucha. We enjoyed our spread as Zeke ran wild, begging to venture into the woods, and little Ellis pondered the possibilities of a stick.
With lunch digesting in our bellies we set off on our hike. Not even minutes into the walk I commented to my husband, “I never want to spend a Sunday not doing this.” We happened upon a waterfall, with a woman sitting on a bench at the bottom, playing her ukulele, looking completely and utterly content, her children off running somewhere in the woods, she said.
Grayson and Zeke gave no second thought before beginning their ascent up the waterfall. I lifted Ellis, him all but jumping out of the stroller while squealing in delight (he gets pretty excited over fresh air), and carried him to a large rock in the falls where we sat to watch brother and daddy.
We bid our farewell to ukulele mama and continued on to more ventures of rocks to climb, bridges to cross, stones to collect, butterflies to catch, flowers to smell, trees to identify, and lessons to be learned from nature.
At one point, Ezekiel became so entranced in his mission to collect rocks in his pockets that he lost track of his feet and fell onto the path, skidding his knees against the beloved rocks he was moments before carefully selecting. He cried for a moment, and I told him those marks on his legs are the marks of a big kid, and in that moment he grew a little.
Today my two year old learned what a daffodil smells like. He learned how to climb a waterfall. He learned that his daddy is the coolest daddy in the world because when we drive past a parked train, his daddy slows the car, honks the horn to get the train conductor’s attention, and asks the conductor to blow the train’s horn, which he does, just for my two year old. He learned that butterflies are beautiful and don’t bite. He learned that mommy likes to hold daddy’s arm as she walks. He learned that skinned knees usher him into boyhood.
And as he learned all of this, his baby brother watched him, and began learning all of the same lessons. Today the both of them learned some important lessons about what mom and dad value: exercise, outdoors, stopping to admire the details of God’s creation, and spending time together as a family.
When it comes to lessons from nature, I want to tell my sons the same thing Greek Bishop Basil the Great once said,
When we returned home you couldn’t wipe the smile off of my two year old’s face. And even though we came home to dinner not made, piles of laundry to be washed and folded, and the end of a week quickly merging into a new one with much to do, nothing could wipe the smile off of my face, either.
This isn’t the first time we have resolved to take more family walks. Last spring we did the same. But once the novelty of spring’s warm weather wears off, transforming into taxing summer heat, it becomes less motivating to pack a lunch, get everyone ready, load into the car, and find somewhere to go.
But then I remember the look on Zeke’s face today when he reached the top of that waterfall. He had climbed all the way up, hopping from rock to rock, maneuvering his little feet across tedious obstacles, and reached the top! His expression was priceless. He had done it! And all with his little hand tucked into his Daddy’s strong, guiding grasp. Those are the moments that convince me that I may never wear dress shoes to church again.