Another lesson learned in Life’s big classroom.
Yesterday, as with every Monday afternoon for the past two months, I pick up my two oldest children from school and bring them to the Résidence Dunham, a local nursing home. Here they spend an hour or more with the elderly doing various activities. They were particularly excited this certain afternoon as they thought they would be decorating the facility for Halloween. I dropped them off and the twins and I went to do a little shopping at a farmstand down the road.
Initially, this weekly ritual was to teach my children the importance of volunteering and giving up their time to bring some joy to others. Sometimes they bring friends along, other times they go in alone. And each time they have no idea what the hour will consist of. And like every other week I drop them off and the twins and I do our own hour of fun.
On the way to the farmstand I noticed some children playing Rugby at the nearby Dunham town field. I knew there was a little tournament scheduled because Momo’s friend Lily, who has frequently accompanied the kids to the Résidence, told me she could not go this week because of the tournament she wanted to participate in.
When I left the farmstand I realized I had time to spare before picking up Momo and Jamy so I stopped at the field to watch Lily and some of their other classmates playing Rugby. It was a beautiful fall day and I couldn’t help but be disappointed that my children were not out there participating in this game. The smell in the air reminded me of my years playing field hockey and the excitement of being out in a field with endless energy and the feeling of an autumn breeze cooling you down. I wanted my children to know this feeling.
When it was time to leave, I drove to the Résidence prepared to ask Jamy and Momo why I never received the paper from the school telling the parents about this last minute Rugby tournament. I pulled into the facility and Jamy came running out asking if he and Momo could stay ten minutes longer. Apparently, they were helping out in the preparation of dinner. I agreed to let them stay but mentioned the urgency in getting home because we had plans that evening to finish decorating the haunted house for the upcoming Halloween events in Frelighsburg.
About twenty minutes later Momo and Jamy came out to the car. They were full of excitement rattling on about how they helped prepare the evening meal. Jamy had made a tomato sandwich for the 103-year-old blind woman, and he was taught how to arrange her meal on a tray so she would know where each item was. Momo had set the tables and made and served tea in the dining room. They laughed and talked all the way home. And it was at this moment that I felt this shame overcome me. Always wanting them to participate in everything, especially a sport, I realized that what I wanted for them was what I wanted for myself. My interests were not theirs. They felt joy in being with these wonderful elderly people. They had no desire to show me that slip of paper from the school because they knew their place that day was at the Résidence, where they wanted to be.
I told them how proud I was of them. They were experiencing exactly what I wanted them to know. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment and self pride then when you know you are helping others. And for them to embrace that was truly heartfelt. However, later that evening I did reiterate to them that it was important that they bring home ALL correspondence they receive from school. Because, who knows, maybe someday, on an equally beautiful fall day when they are not otherwise engaged, they will want to run around with their friends and get all sweaty.
But for know this was a lesson in life well absorbed by Mommy.