If you’re anything like me, this time of the year has crept up on you like frost in a field: slow and inevitable yet somehow invisible and surprising.
On my homestead, I’ve spent days making pounds of chili and pasta and packing soups and sweets for my hunter to take along with him to his camp. I’m hoping this pays dividends, and he brings home plenty for the freezer. I’ve been planning the garden again and hauling and chopping firewood. I had the chickens processed before winter and put them up in the freezer, ready to provide a warm meal after a cold day. Despite this being a season for family, I wasn’t feeling like I was getting a lot of time with the ones closest to me: my kids!
Weekdays are so robotic lately, reviewing stacks of homework and trying to make sense of fourth grade math. By the time we’ve sifted through the sea of confusion and then dinner, it’s bedtime. So I was determined to hold on to this past weekend with a death grip. We were going to make stuff, listen to Burl Ives sing “Silver and Gold,” and RELAX—and we were going to do it together!
Because this has been a year of tumult and change for us, I wanted to put together two holiday crafts I’m calling Grateful Globes and Pride Journals. For the first, I lugged out the acrylic paints, Mod Podge (plain, silver, and gold), brushes, and clear glass Christmas balls that I got at a craft store. I laid down some newspaper and gave my kids intentionally loose instructions: Make a globe that represents you and your year. Include what you’re grateful for now or what you’d like to remember in the future.
For the next couple of hours, the kids diligently discussed, clipped, and glued their way towards truly personalized Christmas ornaments. They spent time pouring over an old dictionary to talk about words that encompassed these past months, what they hope to accomplish in the next year, and what they hold close. I wanted these decorations to be something they could reminisce over years from now, when they’re hanging their own trees with their own children. They succeeded beautifully! We now have a few more heirloom ornaments hanging on our tree, and we’ll repeat this activity again in the coming years.
The best part was listening to the discussion their efforts prompted. My daughter spoke dreamily of our travels as she made a ball celebrating our life on the road; my son selected random hilarious highlights to focus on; and our guest made a wonderful piece commemorating her grades and her dreams for the coming year. It allowed me to peek inside their heads, which can be cluttered and closed off to Mom and Dad. (One tip: Don’t use a pen! The ink bleeds wildly when mixed with Mod Podge. If you want to incorporate text, you might print your grateful list on the computer and use that.)
My next project is more of a commitment. I firmly believe that every child seeks a parent’s stamp of approval, no matter how old she or he is. (I’m talking to you, 16-year-old!) I also think that, in this day and age, it’s increasingly difficult for our children to hear us, REALLY hear us, when we say we’re proud of them. Frankly, sometimes we stink at saying it. To bridge that gap, I want to make sure I outline something my kids do every week that I’m proud of and that I think makes them better people.
I’ll sit down weekly to write out this one thing. It won’t always be warm and fuzzy. It might be overcoming something that was difficult for them in their everyday lives. Here’s an example: Recently, my son and I were watching a kid’s network that shall remain nameless and that was hosting an awards show, supposedly to honor kids for helping other kids. In the midst of this program aimed at kids, a musical guest sang about a girl having a “booty like an hourglass,” among other comments my boy had no business thinking were acceptable things to say about women.
This led to a discussion that could have been incredibly awkward but ended up being very open and educational for both of us. It was certainly a moment in which he could’ve blushed and buried his head. I mean, his mom said “booty,” for goodness sake! Instead, we had a talk I was proud of. Into the Pride Journal it goes, along with some dialogue and a mother’s thought on why the moment was important.
My father is one of the rare and lucky few who has a treasure-trove of journals, letters, notes, and recordings left behind by his mother. No matter how many of these tangible memories he has, I’m certain he would always wish for more. Even now, I see him page through the books and glance over her handwriting or quote something she wrote. Her presence is palpable. Thanks to her example, I want to plan ahead and make sure my kids never forget how very proud I am of them and their accomplishments, big and small. At the end of the year, the journals will get packed away with the monthly photo books I’ve started to publish online, waiting for the kids to revisit them many years down the road—or maybe whenever they need to.
This is an excellent time of year to plan ahead, not just for the new year but for a lifetime. How can you impact others and how can you make sure they know what impact they have on you? Within your family and well beyond it, you hold the capacity to spread far-reaching beauty. How can you start today?
Michelle Wire comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead where she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.
PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE