I knew that I’d gain many things when I became a mom. A greater ability to multi-task. A newfound appreciation and love for my husband. A fierce, protective mother-daughter love. A strong need for coffee. Most obviously of all, I knew I’d gain a little one. The thing I was least of all expecting to gain, though, was a teacher.
I remember the first time my little Olive voluntarily chose to experience a summer rain. She gestured and pointed out the window, so I let her go out onto our porch to watch the clouds roll in. It started to rain, slow and steady. I watched her tilt her head up to look at the sky. She held her arms out to catch some droplets. I can still picture her chubby arms and legs, her white floral romper, her hair plastered to her forehead and falling out of messy pigtails. I was so taken while observing her that I snapped a series of photos that I cherish to this day. She allowed herself to experience something- something which I, personally, often see as a nuisance or a damper- in a slow and quiet way. She didn’t see the rain storm that hindered us from going grocery shopping, or that made the dog’s paws (and my floors!) muddy. She beheld something new to her two-year-old eyes; the sky, shifting from blue to gray. Dark clouds replacing white. Warm, fat droplets drenching her arms. She smiled and enjoyed that brief moment for what it was.
She teaches me to stop and enjoy. To savor.
It wasn’t more than a month ago that she brought home a dixie cup full of dirt from preschool. She had planted two sunflower seeds down in that soil, and knew to expect something great would happen. She waited. In a few days, I noticed something poking out of the dirt in the cup on our windowsill, so I called her into the kitchen to see. When she saw the sprouts, her eyes grew wide, she drew her breath, jumped up and down while clapping, and exclaimed, “I’m so excited! THAT IS SO COOL!” She poked the shoots, looked at them from all angles, sprinkled some water on them, and was on her way. She still checks on those sprouts, and still marvels when she sees that they’re growing.
She teaches me to wonder at the small things, because they can still be miraculous.
One morning not too long ago, we were driving home from the grocery store when we saw a woman on the side of the road, holding a sign that said she was hungry. Heartbreaking- but sadly, nothing out of the ordinary for our city. My little passenger was quiet in the back seat during my exchange with the woman, but, as usual, she was absorbing everything that was going on. As we drove away, I decided to prompt a conversation, to see what my three-year-old could grasp about what had just happened. She listened as I explained, the best I could, about homelessness, and giving out of our own abundance. To this day, every week or two, when we have our before-bed talks, she will ask me about the ‘lady with no food under the bridge’, and voluntarily prays for her. She closes her eyes tight and prays that she has more granola bars and fruit and a house to live in. She hasn’t forgotten. Her way of helping is remembrance and prayer, and that speaks volumes to me about her heart.
She teaches me to remember the hurting, and to live with gratitude.
I love being a student to my three-year-old. Her methods aren’t clinical or calculated, but purely by example. Her way of experiencing the world is incredibly simple. It’s a stripped down, bare-bones way of living that, I’m sad to say, we tend to lose with age. As we get older, we become used to the way tall sunflowers grow from tiny seeds. We look past the refreshment of a summer’s rain towards the obstacles it can cause in our day. We feel helpless when we see a hurting world when it’s important that we remember, and care for, who and what we can. Olive sees the things around her for what they are. They’re not tainted by painful experiences or brushed under the rug by a desire for something further down the road.
May my way of living be changed by sitting under her tutelage; and if, someday, she happens to forget that small things are miraculous, or becomes discouraged by the world, I hope that I can bring her lessons, full circle, back to her.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.