Several times a week, he slips his hand into mine as we walk down the pathway to the waterfront. In the afterschool hours, the sun hits the ground so we can spot the shiny rocks even in their layer of mud. He stops and collects them to bring to the water. Once clean, we admire their beauty, turning them over and over again in our hands, noting their weight.
It was in a moment like this recently that I decided it was time to ask the question that had me unsettled since a chat with Active For Life. If your child could finish this sentence what would they say? “My mom/dad spends most of her/his time___”
So with a casualness that I did not feel, I asked him how he thought I spent most of my time. And he said, “playing with me outside”. I reworded my question because I didn’t feel deep down that he gave the right answer. I mean what he should have said was you like to play on your phone or your computer or to sleep. What he said next was, “you like to spend time playing with me by the water”. My heart near burst.
A year ago almost all the pictures I had of my kids were from my bedroom or living room. I was always sick or always tired or always working. It was the very first time in my life that I really saw what stress can do. Things were dark. My mom was dying. It’s part of the reason we made our recent life change. Now most of our photo backgrounds are the lake, the leaves, and the trees. Some of the pictures even include me.
I’m still on my phone a bit too much. But my kid sees me. He can look past what I’m sometimes doing to see what’s in my heart. Even when I’m trying to sneak in a text while playing in the leaves because I was messaged on Facebook about a social media client. He’s not holding onto last year, or even last week. He sees me in front of him playing, smiling, not rushing and he knows this is my very favourite way to spend my time. And he’s not wrong.
Every day I’m working to make sure I’m deserving of that honour by making active and family play a priority. My boys get off the bus at the end of our driveway and we stay outside to play. If we go inside first, it’s really easy to get distracted by other things.
Our play is simple and the kids direct the ideas. We might walk down to the lake, play hide and seek in the trees, jump in leaves, time how fast we can run around the driveway, or play basketball. Sometimes, we build animal shelters using fallen trees. I hardly ever suggest ideas, they almost always come up with them.
This here rock, gathered from one of our afternoon adventures, may look like an ordinary rock to an outsider but to me, it’s a memento from a battle won. I see that rock, all cleaned up, sitting on my 6-year-old’s dresser and I know that rock is an achievement. It may just be one of the most valuable things in our home.