Parenting and Summers on a Farm
My house is quiet. I have a pot of stew on the stove that will feed my husband and me suppers most of the week. All the laundry is clean and put away and I’ve had an hour to play on the computer with no particular purpose. When I finish writing this essay I will read myself to sleep. I’ve talked to both grown daughters and had a happy IM conversation with a grand daughter this evening. As much as is possible in an uncertain world, I feel happy about where they are in their lives and unworried about their well-being. There is no crisis. No urgency.
I remember when the pace of my life was very different, so fast I could barely stop for breath between the needs for homework help, listening, limits, dance tights without a rip in the toe, decisions about everything every minute, and dishes that piled up dirty as soon as they were washed. And there was my professional life, growing in fits and starts. the idea of “life work balance” made me laugh. One afternoon during that crazy time, my girls and I walked up the hill to the library and I found a book which gave me a story that let me catch my breath. It even predicted the calmer life I’m living now. I don’t remember the title of this book, but it was the story of the seasons on a mid western farm.
In the spring everything is fresh and hopeful and busy as the last of the snow melts and the family prepares the ground and plants the crops. They work hard in spring, but they play too. There is time to pick flowers for the table, sing over the dishes, admire a rainbow. Then summer comes and the urgency of work overwhelms the family. Everyone works from dawn to dusk, and has to. There is just so much to do to keep the crops growing, and there are no guarantees. A storm can destroy a crop in an afternoon. Or it might not rain at all. Uncertainty and urgency fill every heart and every moment. Finally, the heat begins to ease off. The first crop comes in, then the next. The family is able to enjoy its harvest, to rest on Sunday afternoon, to take time for board game at the table or a roll in the leaves. At last all the crops are in and the snow begins to fall. The days are short and the evenings long and quiet, and the family sits by the fire and mends tools worn down over the summer, tells stories from that busy season, and remembers.
That day at the library it hit me between the eyes that my young mother life phase was like summer on the farm. And like summer, it was just a season, to be negotiated as gracefully as possible, lived as wisely as possible. It was just a season, a hard, rich, fast paced season, which would pass. And it has. I’m in the middle of my autumn now, crops pretty much in, winter coming but not yet. I watch my daughters buy school supplies, fix lunches, worry about jobs, and I remember when that was me. Or I see a young mother in the grocery store with a toddler in full tantrum and an cart full of melting food and I want to tell her, “Summer is just a season. Summer passes. The harvest comes in.”
Victoria Hendricks is an author & therapist in central Austin, with a private practice specializing in individuals & couples. Victoria helped me get my start in private practice, and is a mentor to me still. I asked her to write today’s post after she told me this story in person (after a conversation in which it was obvious that I was feeling very “summery” (as I now think of it.) Victoria has been featured on this blog once before, on helping children grieve. If you’re interested in more from Victoria, you can call her work number: 512-458-2844, or email her at: seastarvsh AT aol DOT com.