In May FDW is hosting a new series on stories from people in all walks of life and their observations of children and what they make us. Click here for more on the series and a list of the contributors. This post was written by a woman I’ve come to know as friend, sister, and colleague, Kelly Shriver and someone I hold up as an example of a strong, capable clergy mom.
I grew up in Spokane, WA, a city lucky enough to truly celebrate four distinct seasons: crisp, crunchy fall; a cold, snowy winter; a wet, green spring; a hot, dry summer. And not only was the climate a constant reminder of change, if you drive out of town in any direction, it only takes you 5 minutes to hit the wheat fields. I have a thing about wheat; it’s probably my favorite plant. It’s green and waves like an ocean in the early summer, it turns brown and heavy and makes the most comforting scritch-scratch noise just before harvest, the barren overturned dark dirt notes the hard, fallow winter, and then the tiny green stubble marks the hope that spring is once again on the rise. It’s a full seasonal, sensory experience in one beautiful stalk. And since you didn’t ask: it’s my next tattoo, if you must know.
With all of this around me, I’ve always kind of prided myself on being a person who really understands the seasons, both literally in the world around me, but also figuratively in my own life.
And then I had kids.
Children, at least for me, are the ultimate reminder of the “seasonal” in the most chaotic way possible. Which drives me completely insane. The seasons of their childhood aren’t coming in orderly, three-month waves of growth and change. Most of the time I can’t predict when a change is coming, it just sort of happens, and then I look back and realize: we’re in a new season.
Sometimes the seasons are wonderful: the kids are sleeping well, through the night, in their own beds! No potty accidents in recorded memory! Bok Choi is our new favorite vegetable, and we’ll eat all of it, every night! Other times the seasons are challenging and exhausting: more snow/sick/cold weather/federal holiday days off of school than actual in-school days for 2 months straight. All too frequent visits to the otolaryngologist/ophthalmologist/pediatrician. Not a single poop in the potty in recorded memory. And the yelling. Oh, the yelling. Have we completely lost our ability to use “inside voices”?
And yet, despite the frustration I feel at their inconstant nature, the shifting seasons of my kids’ lives have opened me up to a completely different understanding of what it means to live seasonally. Seasonality is not all about unvarying repetition, year after year, in sane 3-month intervals. Seasonality, I’m starting to see, is more about living our lives in a way that reflects an ability to flex and change, to be resilient as the water we swim in ebbs and flows. I almost wonder if the tides of the western Washington Coast are a better image for me to dwell in these days than the lock-step march of the eastern Washington wheat fields.
We know the tides will shift and change. We know the high tide will invariably follow the low, again and again. But tides, while they maintain some level of precision, they shift in ways we cannot always expect. They’re influenced by the gravity of the moon, the turn of the earth, the patterns of the weather, the current of the ocean, and occasionally it seems by the whims of the gods. They come in and out at different depths, at different times, and in a constantly changing and shifting pattern. They are, by turns, certain and capricious, but always present.
For me, my children are offering a (sometimes less than voluntary) enticement to join with them in the tidal seasons of our daily living. And yet, I don’t entirely feel like I’m losing the influence of the broader, more predictable move between the calendric seasons. It’s a both/and rather than an either/or. A bidding to join in new rhythms of life, to expand upon the ways we are already living.
Rev. Kelly Boubel Shriver hails from the beautiful area of Eastern Washington, but currently serves as the Head of Staff to Peoples Presbyterian Church in Milan, Michigan, just south of Ann Arbor. Professionally, she also gleans significant life from her work as the co-chair of The Young Clergy Women Project. At home, she and her husband, John, keep themselves plenty busy with 2 (going on 3) little boys, a dog the size of a small horse, a flock of ducks, and the occasional whole pig/lamb/goat for roasting in the backyard. When not otherwise occupied with her various creatures, Kelly tries to read a book here and there, can and preserve food, and consider sewing through some of the mountains of unfinished quilt projects (which are currently cluttering up the guest room).