My summer days growing up in suburban New Jersey were spent playing across the street with my best friend, delighting in the way the trees in front of her home were perfectly shaped to resemble a castle, a horse stable, or a boat. We would climb the “pet tree” in my front yard all the way to the top and dig in the dirt for salamanders. "The kids on the block" and I would catch fireflies as the sun went down, gathering together nickels and dimes to ride our bikes uptown to the toy store or the ice cream shop. A large family moved in across the street the summer that Super Soakers first became popular and we would exchange numbers in the front yard: “Mine is a Super Soaker 1000…” “Well, my brother has a Super Soaker 10,000 plus an additional 5,000 so let’s have a super soaker competition!" "Left side of the street vs the right side of the street! Front porches are base, only three time outs can be called…” The only interruption to our imaginative play was our mother calling from the front porch, the sound of the screen door swinging and slamming behind her. Making out her shadow calling out my name under the porch light, I would shrug my shoulders and shout to my buddies, “See you guys again tomorrow morning!” No smart phones. No internet. No television. Relentless simplicity at its best. We certainly didn’t have every thing, but we definitely had everything. I fully understand and appreciate that I had a blessed childhood.
Twenty or so years later, I am now a stay-at-home mom of two young boys. Today's parents have so much noise to navigate. It’s overwhelming. I’m not talking about the delightful laughter billowing out of our colorful playroom or the shouts and splashes echoing through our porch door from the backyard. I fought hard to become a mother to our two boys and it was not easy for me as it is for some. I will never be one to complain about the challenges that parenthood often presents because I know how fleeting all of this can be. Dreams can be shattered in a single afternoon, with one phone call, or one result revealed. I fully understand and appreciate this and our struggle to become parents has made me fully appreciative of this life we now have that at one point seemed nearly impossible. My children and their father are my entire world and every single thing about this life we live is a dream come true for us. My husband is an emigrant from South Africa and came to the states at the age of 16, leaving everything he knew and loved behind to start fresh in our country of freedom and opportunity. The sunshine we appreciate today seemed impossible to him at that point in time. We feel blessed and incredibly humbled each and every day to have achieved our own version of what we perceive to be The American Dream.
With that said, the noise of children is indeed music to my ears. However, I cannot tolerate the noise that comes from relentless criticism, blatant hate, threats, and bitter judgment between mothers, fathers, and human beings, in general. Gone are the Super Soaker wars of my childhood and in their place is a new type of darkness that I am definitely not fond of: The Mommy Wars. It’s a whole new parenting ballgame; with strikes called for strong opinions voiced or certain lifestyles chosen, fouls called for honesty and hearts shared, and ugly and hateful brawls out in left field over what someone said about what someone said. In my opinion, this is bullying. We encourage our children to stop this at school yet we perpetuate it through our actions in an online forum. It needs to stop, friends. My family and I are turning off the noise. This is what works for us and I encourage you to follow our lead for the best summer yet!
There will be no television. Instead, we will wind down our active days with our own home videos, celebrating the milestones we have overcome. Just last night we built a fort in our living room using old sheets, the corners of our couch, and bed pillows and cushions. We watched the video of when our oldest son walked for the first time. He has some special needs and has often struggled to meet milestones due to being born severely premature. It’s been a long road, with NICU time and lots of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, but we are so proud of our little overcomer. Seeing him break free from his leg braces and walk into my outstretched arms with delight was just the reminder I needed as to why I am here on this planet. We are here to love. We are here to support each other in this crazy thing we call life. We are here to bravely share our hearts, to encourage, to lift up, and to celebrate all we are given. Do good. Be good. Spread hope, peace, and love. Our world and our children truly need this kind of example.
There will be no internet. With the exception of writing during naptime, I’m not tuning in to the internet gossip and lies that swirl like wildfire around my head. There is a rule in our home that we do not use social media in front of our children but limit it to the early morning hours, naptimes, and the late evening hours. With the exception of taking phone calls from the people in my life, who needs to scroll newsfeeds when the carefree summer sunshine beckons? Who needs to post on Instagram when we could develop that picture for our own family album or scrapbook? Who cares what some troll under a bridge thinks about some person on the internet? They are most likely commenting on a completely warped and sensationalized view of the person they are commenting on anyway. Like my mother and grandmothers before her, I choose to unplug, create laughter and joy for others, and reconnect IRL (In Real Life) with the people I love more than anything else on the planet.
There will be no smartphone. And as a direct result; no apps or games, no conditioned response to text messages, no alarms or reminders planning out my time. We will do things on our time and with love, passion, and interest to guide us. We can take another spin around the block, we can have an extra scoop of ice cream, we can visit with the grandparents a little longer and listen by the campfire to one of Grand Dad’s stories about the good old days. We can live on our terms, and not be controlled by some notification on a digital device. With this mindset, we may even forget about our phones for hours at a time, checking in only to see if our aunt called after a weekend game of Marco Polo in the pool, or looking up how a bird makes a nest so we can understand exactly what we are seeing out of our front bay window. Move over, Siri. My family and I are in the driver’s seat.
There will be moments. So much is happening, so quickly that sometimes I find myself wiping away tears at the sheer beauty of it all. These kids, their father, and our life together is what truly matters. Family is my everything; it’s what I think about when I wake up in the morning, it’s how I guide the moments in my day, and it’s what I praise God for when I put my head on the pillow at night. In the words of my favorite songwriter James Taylor, "No one can tell me I'm doing wrong today whenever I see you smile at me." This was always my truth and this has always been my story. I am living my truth every day, all summer long, and for the rest of my One. Precious. Life.