Thursday, September 18, 2014
So I didn't get that perfect picture of our 3 boys together, lined up on the first day of school this year. That's right, the one where they're smiling with brand new clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and haircuts.
Truth is, an honest back-to-school photo would reveal Clay with the messy mullet he's been growing out for the past year (flashback to the 80s); Carson carrying a lunch bag and sporting clothes that were both new to his brothers at some point in time; and Cole...well...he didn't officially begin school the same day as the others. That's how my homeschool program rolls. It seems the closest thing I have to document them together around the time school started was a picture on a dock at the lake after a day of fishing. Summer hair and all.
And although I may have missed that picture that is requisite in most households, I can't help but think of the real smiles my boys flash when my camera isn't in their face. Like when they've driven to town alone for the first time. Or when they've caught their biggest large mouth bass ever. Or when they've outrun both their brothers, even though they're the youngest of 3. Those are the smiles I truly love.
As my Facebook newsfeed filled up with back-to-school shots of all my friends' kids this year...holding chalkboards and signs and all sorts of creative things to signify the momentous occasion...I realized I hadn't yet shopped for groceries to pack lunches. Whoops.
And I forgot a few (or more) things on the school supply list. Whoops again.
And I had better wake up those kids and stop looking at all the perfect ones on Facebook, because we were going to have to try and do something with that summer hair.
But if there is such a thing as a successful summer, I will use that as retaliation against my first-day-of-school shortcomings. Because it was a good summer...
I learned that those boys of mine can make hay without any help from dad. From checking the fields for moisture, to mowing, raking, and baling, and hiring a crew to put it up in the barn.
I watched endless cannonballs into grandma's pool, and when bloody noses happened, the jumping didn't slow down one bit. Boys and girls sure are different.
I swept up hay off the kitchen floor. Lots of it.
I watched one son overcome a fear of driving the tractor in small-town traffic.
I learned that lavender oil is the best stuff ever when you unknowingly stick your hand into a nest of angry wasps.
I swept up more hay off the kitchen floor. And bought a new broom because I wore the old one out.
I was reminded of the blessing of this place we call home when we welcomed a busload of church kids who spent the weekend camping in our pastures.
I realized, for the first time, the deep love my boys have for the tradition of an annual family camping trip...full of cousins and swimming and late night ice cream.
I swept with my new broom. And I thought to myself that the source of all this hay on my floor was worth it. And I smiled as I swept (most of the time).
I learned that in 14 years of parenting, I understand now more than ever the importance of my job as a mom. It doesn't matter if they're 7, 11, or 14...kids need their mom, and kids need to know that they come before the many distractions that life throws our way. Being a mom is a precious gift, and one of the best things we can do is make sure our kids know that.
...And once the first day of school was over, I watched 3 brothers gather in one bedroom and wrestle around as they talked about their day, and my eyes filled with tears as I thought about their friendship.
As I think about it, I'm pretty okay without the staged picture that would've caused undue whining and arguing. I'll take that lake picture over any other. It represents so many good things.
Long days of farming, fishing, sunshine...
Working, playing, laughing, even fighting...
Three boys of mine who were 14, 11, and 7, and won't be again.
Yes, I will happily let that picture mark "a day just before the first day of school". It's a better fit for us this year...summer hair and all.