Here is my idea of a perfect afternoon: I walk my children home from school, we snuggle on the couch and read a book, go to the kitchen to mix a batch of apple-flax seed muffins (each child cracks an egg), and sit at the counter to do homework while the muffins bake.
Here is what really happens: my daughter is upside down on the barstool chanting, "I hate homework! I'm hungry! Make me pasta."
"The muffins are almost done," I reply.
"You are a mean mom, you won't make me pasta. I'm starving to death. Aghhh... I'm dying... I hate homework!"
I realize that my idea of a perfect afternoon and my daughter's idea of a perfect afternoon are very different. Polar opposites. She would like to be driven home from school, plop down on the couch with a bag of potato chips and watch Nickelodeon. What about homework? There is no any -work in this fantasy. What's for dinner? How does McDonald's drive-thru sound? Can I have a few pieces of Halloween candy? Can you make some cookies Mom? I'm still hungry, can you make me some pasta? Good Mommy.
I don't blame my daughter for having such different fantasies from my own. I can actually sympathize with her. Junk food, TV, kids not doing homework with little consequence, driving two blocks instead of walking - we are surrounded by these occurrences everyday. Why don't I just put my feet up on the coffee table, eat a handful of chips and float down the mainstream? Because my ideal world is upstream, that quiet, secluded, sparsely populated place where you walk more than drive, cook more than eat out, read more than watch, listen more than talk, question more than accept. Getting upstream and staying there requires work and sacrifice, just ask a spawning salmon.
At this point in my life, I am equipped and ready to reside upstream, but I realize my children have not had the proper training or experience to make the journey. They need some time in the mainstream so they can decide whether to go with the flow or take the stream less often navigated. I need to slow down on my own journey to get them successfully started on their own journeys, and accept and support the path they choose even if it is different from my own.
Back in the kitchen, the children are restless, mom is frustrated, muffins are cooling and dinner is almost ready.
"Kids, put on some shoes and follow me," I say.
We climb up on the roof and sit on the ridge while watching the sun set behind the crimson and gold trees. The view is clear both upstream and down. It is quiet and beautiful. The kids are smiling. The afternoon may not have been perfect, but is was ideal.