Last Fall we began taking Sullivan on family walks. We got him on my oldest little girl’s birthday last September. The little girls had been begging for a dog for a long time, I’d been advocating for a dog for a long time, and my husband had just run into a colleague who’d recently adopted two Goldendoodle mix puppies and was sold (no shedding!). He was just nine weeks when we brought him home and we decided, as a family, that we were going to be committed to making sure he had the exercise necessary to keep him happy and healthy.
So in September we began walking the 2.5 mile circle in our neighborhood as a family. As September turned to October and then November we continued to take our walks but added jackets, hats, mittens, and flashlights. Even as the air turned colder we still enjoyed sharing the happenings of each of our days, making plans for upcoming weekends, and being together outside.
After Thanksgiving the little girls started gymnastics, homework seemed to get heavier, the air got even colder, and our ability to take our mid-evening walks with Sullivan slipped away. Brisk walks through piles of Fall leaves with the family were replaced by Marathon Mondays. Sullivan found a best friend next door and has been able to get exercise by just playing outside. Our evening routine has consisted of piling in as much as we can between 4:30 and 8pm every Monday and Tuesday night.
This week gymnastics switches from one of our nights to a night when they are with their other parents. We’re suddenly able to take a little more time with our evening routine. I’d been thinking about how to really take advantage of our evening time together so the little girls feel less rushed and more like they are getting the time with their parents that they deserve.
Today it was unseasonably warm. 61 degrees to be exact. If you’re not from the area picture this…when it’s 61 degrees (hell, even when it’s 45) Minnesotans drive around with sunroofs and windows open, people ride their bikes, and there are walkers and runners everywhere. Despite the fact that our lawns are still covered with snow.
It was warm tonight, and we’re in that glorious time of year when it gets light earlier in the morning, and stays light later in the evening. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, the little girls have needed more from us in the past several weeks, so I thought they might really enjoy a family walk with Sullivan. The little girls and I threw on our jackets, hats, mittens, and winter boots to avoid getting soaked, and off we went. My oldest little girl brought her flashlight “just in case” it suddenly got dark.
We didn’t walk fast…we took our time. The little girls took turns holding my hand (the one not holding Sullivan’s leash), while the other walked on top of the high piles of snow. We checked out the bright moon that hung in the still-light sky. And we talked about being kind, and being respectful, and being “one of a kind,” and how to respond to children who are unkind, and things that are important to us as a family. It’s a conversation that I used to initiate but that the little girls now bring up often. What it means to be “one of us.”
We remembered the time that Daddy took Sullivan off of his leash for the second part of our walk and he almost got hit by a car…and how very scary it was. My oldest little girl lost the flashlight she’d brought along. We got rocks in our boots. I’m pretty sure we weren’t going nearly fast enough for Sullivan. And by the end my littlest little girl was cold and tired, my oldest little girl was trying to convince me we should get new winter boots NOW instead of next winter, and I was wondering why I thought Uggs were a wise choice for walking through puddle after puddle after puddle.
Because we took the time to take a walk we had to quickly rush through showers, individual reading, and together reading, but when I kissed the little girls goodnight they were so content and sweet and happy.
There feels like so little opportunity to slow down, be quiet, and relax these days. There is so much to accomplish in such short bouts of time. We think of a million things we’d love to do with the little girls for which we end up deciding there just isn’t time. But if we don’t make the time to slow down, spend quiet time together, and allow the little girls to just breathe for a moment, I fear they’ll grow-up not knowing what that feels like.
After the little girls were in bed tonight my husband and I decided we need to make a much more concerted effort to provide that for them. And, quite frankly, for ourselves.
TODAY: What if it’s just as important to spend quiet time together as it is to get through all of the things we “have” to get done? What if the little girls need some good old fashioned down time with their parents that doesn’t include homework or chores or riding in the car?