Cool late-summer air and overcast skies made it perfect yesterday to take the kids to Greenfield Village and stroll amongst the old-time houses, shops and playground. Eliana urged us to walk beside the pond. Shaya exclaimed over the ducks. At the far end of the field, I saw a Waltons-era barn, makeshift tent and a truck from the Depression.
A cool day in late summer is a perfect opportunity to stroll along this Detroit gem, winding our way through the stories of our nation’s past and reconnecting with one another without technology. Which was exactly what I thought when I decided to squeeze my work time into the morning hours and shuttle the kids for a fun-filled afternoon.
We ate lunch at our favorite, Eagle Tavern, choosing from its 1850s menu and sitting at the long wooden table with candlelight the only illumination. The kids rode the carousel, then asked for cotton candy and a Sanders hot fudge cream puff.
We played on the playground, and I remember how you don’t have to be a little kid to enjoy climbing, spinning, sliding, seesawing or playing with water. The child in each of us comes out when we give free reign to run and play.
By the end of the day, after walking miles along the grounds, we were all tired, though reluctant to say so. They begged to pop into the toy store and gift shop, they just had to buy something, just to have it, and I finally ushered all of us out and toward the car without having purchased a thing.
That’s my right as a mother, and my obligation: to tell them when enough is enough, to guard them against spending money on frivolous items they will play with only briefly before setting them aside into memory.
That’s when the bickering began. The snarky comments, directed at one another and at me, for the unfairness of it all.
We have a family membership to The Henry Ford campus, so I had intended for this outing to be a mostly free day. In my head, I calculated how much I had spent – $9 for three kids to ride the carousel, $48 for lunch at the Eagle Tavern (which included two kids’ meals and one salad – only one full-price entree and one of the less expensive ones at that), $15 for the cotton candy and cream puff.
The total: $75 spent in a few quick hours during what was supposed to be a spend-free outing.
I spend so much time trying to be Super-Mom, trying to facilitate incredible bonding experiences with each other, with me, with nature, with learning, that I forget sometimes to take care of me. To abide by the rules I set for our lives, to follow the budget, to take care to take care.
As I drove away, I was spent. I was angry. I was annoyed. I spat at the fighting children. I silently beat up on myself for spending so much when I had intended not to spend at all.
Was it worth it?
For a few hours, we reveled in being together, in the kind of abandon and freedom that comes with letting go and exploring. We talked. We played. We learned. We explored.
In the garden behind one of the oldest houses on the premises, first Eliana and I, then Shaya and I, wandered between garden beds, identifying the plants. Basil. Cilantro. Beets. Carrots. Sunflowers bowed over with late-summer height. Dill tall and flowering.
There was one gigantic cabbage flowering out from the green stiff leaves. Swiss chard grew in several places. Onions popped up in purples and greens and whites.
Along one edge of the fence, tall bean plants sprouted knobby purple and green pods. There was lavender and sage.
Greenfield Village is a journey back in time, and an opportunity to learn about our nation’s history. Monumental and significant moments, as well as the little things that nobody remembers.
The way a family in 1640 New England shared one room in a tiny cabin. Where did they go to the bathroom? my children asked, and a conversation ensued about sanitation conditions and whether disease was introduced with the agricultural era or earlier.
The way, until the past few decades, people ate what was in season because that was all they had – unless they could find a way to dry and store the bounty of the land.
People went to sleep when the sun set and rose when its first rays dappled the sky.
I don’t have to point out that none of this applies to us today.
I don’t have to underline the importance of being happy with what we have, of understanding, truly, the concept of enough, of luxury vs. necessity.
This morning, I came across an article on self-love and I read it with deep interest. Do I love myself? And how would I know? What is the evidence? Where is the proof?
Self-love, the article stated, is what we do for others that we rarely do for ourselves.
Give time and attention. Make a favorite meal. Listen well. Do things we enjoy.
Make time. That’s the kicker. Making time for me? Really? I don’t believe I do that.
And the real question is, does anybody?
Last night, I went to sleep before 10 o’clock. The window was cracked to let in this cool night air, and I slept long and soundly, until my eyes fluttered open in the still-dark.
It’s that time in Michigan already, when 6 a.m. means the sun has yet to rise. I lay there because if it was still dark, I felt I could remain in repose. I did not pull myself from the bed until close to 7, and the house was still shuttered in quiet, hugged in whispers.
Perhaps a long night of restful sleep, breathing in the freshest air, is one way to self-love. I’ll take it as an offering, for now, and aim to find other ways to nurture myself because if I don’t, who else will?