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  • Writer's pictureRuth Sauers

The art of motherhood and summer

There’s just a couple weeks left before school is out and summer begins. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with summer. I love the change of pace, the slower schedule, the opportunity to do fun things with the kids, the lack of homework, the beautiful weather, the pool days. But also, with summer comes the kids being home all the time with me. I’m a person who thrives with alone time, with quiet, with some space to think my own thoughts, and do what I want for a little bit. I’m definitely an introvert, but there are also probably plenty of extroverts who need this. As a creative, I need time and space to think and listen and just process things without things still happening around me. So sometimes it feels like summer is one big pause button. Sometimes it feels like any creative juices I’ve had or thoughts I’ve started developing completely come to a halt because there is just so much activity and so many needs around me, there’s no time to attend to those things.

And so sometimes I look forward to summer with a bit of apprehension. I know I won’t be able to think as many deep thoughts, I know I won’t be able to get as lost in creating, I know I will have noise and distractions galore. And that can feel like progress is completely stopping, thoughts are a blur, nothing is coherent, and my life feels more reactionary than intentional. These are some of the things that have happened in the past and some of the fears that I have.

But I think back over these past months and the beautiful distraction my kids have been to me, as I’ve been walking through hard family circumstances, and as I’ve been working through past trauma and the affects it’s had, and the ways it’s shaped me. And I think about how my children have made me laugh, and they’ve brought their problems to me, and I’ve been delighted to help them with their struggles, helping me take my mind off my own. Their present lives have been such a welcome escape from the heaviness of my past. We’ve played games and we’ve watched movies and shows, and we’ve taken hikes, and we’ve shot baskets, and their presence has just been a comfort.

I remember the summer that Haven was one and I was pregnant with Miles. It was glorious. We bought a blow-up pool, put it on our patio and played in it all morning almost every morning. Then we would go inside and have lunch, and Haven would go down for her nap and I would take one too.

Then I remember the summer that Promise was born. A couple weeks before she was born Patrick decided he wanted to learn how to ride a bike. So he went pedaling on the sidewalk down the hill into the busy street with oncoming traffic. I ran after him clutching my very pregnant belly. A man who was driving on the road saw what was happening and blocked traffic with his car so that Patrick wouldn’t get hit. The fact that he saw what was happening and was able to do something to stop Patrick from careening into oncoming traffic was an intervention of God. The rest of that summer Patrick kept getting out of the house, he had a fascination with the alley and kept ending up there. I would have to go find him. That was one of the hardest summers I can remember.

Our summers have definitely evolved since that one and there have been many other trying and difficult times, but also incredibly wonderful memories together. And so I think about this summer, knowing that I might be ready to send them back to school by mid-July, but also knowing that life is art. The things that we do together this summer, the badminton in the backyard, the trips for ice cream, the times when we’re bored and we don’t know what to do so we make up some dumb game, even the times we yell at each other and then have to make things right, they are all shaping me, they’re shaping us, and coloring in the art of our lives. These are the days we are living, these are the moments that matter, the moments we have with the precious people God has put in our lives.

And when I think about art, we don’t love it because of it’s perfection, we love it because of its vibrancy, because of its color, because of its detail, because of its ability to make us feel something. This summer isn’t going to be beautiful because every slot on the calendar is perfectly filled with the right amount of activity and space, boredom and excitement, or because we all get along perfectly and never call each other names, or because we read a lot of books and learn incredible things and don’t let our brains go to mush. This summer is going to be beautiful because we’re going to be alive, and we’re going to be growing, and we’re going to be learning, and we’re going to be here in this incredible world.

The beautiful thing about art is that it can look so many different ways. We are drawn to it not because of its uniformity but because of its diversity. The art of your summer can look like humbly asking for some help in a season that you are needing it, or it can look like extending help to others as you are in a season that’s not as challenging. It can look like lots of schedules or lots of free time. It can look like lots of time at home, or more time out and about. It can look like being home or being a working mom or being your kids primary care-giver or or sharing that responsibility with others.

One thing I started doing last summer that saved my life was I started getting up at least an hour before my kids. I can do that now because I don’t have any babies or toddlers and my kids sleep through the night. And I can do that because I am a morning person. I got up at least an hour before my kids, and had time out on my back patio, to sit, to read, to think thoughts that were all mine, to just be quiet, to talk to God about stuff and hear him talk to me. I look so forward to doing that again this summer. I think it is absolutely worth it to build rest and peace and recharging times into our lives as moms so that we can thrive and so that in turn we can help our families thrive.

For some reason, summer has always felt sacred to me - maybe because it’s the most concentrated amount of time that we get to spend with our kids, there’s more time for play and space to linger and dawdle in fun and joy. Maybe it’s because summer feels like the weekend of the seasons. Maybe it’s because summer is my favorite season and I just relish the opportunity to spend it with people I love. But each summer I think about how many summers I have left with each of my children in the home. Each summer I make a list of fun things we can do - we might not do them all but I sure love looking over the list and picking some things. I look forward to this summer, the memories we will make, the messy, beautiful art we will create, as our sacred lives intertwine and bend towards the light.

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