One of my favorite memories growing up is strawberry picking with my mom and brother. The three of us would spend countless hours harvesting those succulent little red candies of nature. Okay, maybe they spent countless hours actually harvesting while I spent hours frolicking around the strawberry patch and antagonizing my big brother.
I would steal strawberries out of my brothers bucket as to say, “pay attention to me.” I mean if I annoyed him enough he would have to engage with me right? I would take strawberries and make a sticky red paint in my dirty little hands and then proceed to “draw” on my brothers bare back. There wasn’t much of a canvas as my brother was a little dude, even being seven years older than me I never remember thinking he was big or scary. My brother maybe weighed 98 pounds with a backpack of wet beach towels on his back…his was little. So I would “draw” and “write” on his petite little canvas in strawberry ink until he was so annoyed he had to call Mom. He normally waited for quite awhile before calling in the backup though, he obliged me for longer than he should have. I always remember that about my brother, he was pretty patient with me as the pesky little sister.
Mom would gently distract me away and then I was off on another adventure among the red and green fields. Oh summer, it contained so many possibilities of fun. There is nothing like the feel of the sun beating down on my freckled little face as strawberry juice drips out of the corners of my mouth and landed on my Rainbow Bright T-shirt. I remember those days and how I didn’t have a care in the world and how each new day seemed like it could be the best day of summer break yet.
We always ended up with quite a harvest at the end of the day, not any thanks to me though as my method was a little like this; “one for my bucket, two for me, one for my bucket, three for me.” I took great pride in our “team effort” and bounty though. I loved sitting in the back of the car surrounded by the buckets of berries and the smell of summer. My little hazel eyes would twinkle all the way home as I knew what mama would do with these berries. Jams and jellies and strawberry waffles with whipped cream piled high, yahoo! Did you know you can and should get whip cream refills if you have a bite of waffle that doesn’t have any? Yep, my mama told me…and showed me. Every bite should contain a dollop of whip cream, a bite of of waffle and a few fresh strawberry slices.
I think back to my strawberry picking days and an endless grin comes upon my face. Picking days were days spent with two of my favorite people in the world. Picking days had a purpose, we were working on a common goal of getting as many strawberries as we could. Picking days served another purpose as well, the purpose of togetherness and what I think most important…time. We were cultivating more than strawberries those days, we were cultivating family and memories.
I look at my three children ranging in age from 8 to 18 and strive to set them up with their own “picking” day memories. I want to nurture times of carefree fun and togetherness amongst the crazy busyness of our lives. I want to make time and space for play, teamwork and family time. I want to foster a cultural in my home where we allow for fun and grace filled sibling interactions even if we are working on a common goal, like cleaning the house.
I know it is easy in our list driven, check off this, do that, kind of society to overlook the power of play and fun. It is easier to be more task driven than carefree. I want to strive for a balance in my home where maybe one doesn’t out weigh the other time wise, but heart wise. I want my kids’ memories of our home and family to be more of “strawberry picking” and less of homework or chore nights. When they are contemplating memories as they get older I hope our “picking days” are what permeate in their memories.
Now I am sure we had plenty of chore days and evenings full of homework at my house growing up but those are not the memories that I recall most often. I day dream about fields of red, fishing in Eastern Oregon and backyard croquet games. I first don’t think of vacuuming the stairs or unloading the dishwasher…although I had to do those things. I remember the memories and most importantly how they made me feel. I felt a part of something, felt loved and felt joyful.
I am challenging myself to find and make more of these moments with my children. I am challenging myself to evaluate from time to time how well Daniel and I set the stage in our family for this. Will you join me in my personal parenting challenge for creating more “picking days?”