“Mom, can we go outside and pick strawberries?” Surprised by my eight-year-old son’s request, I finished cleaning up dinner and headed outside with Drew and his sister Alyssa. All three of us began filling our buckets with strawberries.
While I continued searching for the ripe ones that were hidden from sight, I looked up to see the kids a few yards away sitting on the trampoline, snacking on the berries they had just picked.
Just a few weeks prior, my eyes spotted the very first ripe strawberries in the patch. I showed them to Alyssa, but told her we had to wait until Drew got home from school to pick them. The first strawberries in spring are like Christmas. It’s a once-a-year event with much anticipation. And it’s a family affair.
Drew didn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for the occasion as I had hoped. Still, nothing could contain my excitement as I told my husband to grab the camera. All of us chose our berries and took that very first bite. Fragrant, warm, juicy, sweet. After a winter of eating tart berries from the store, we savored each bite.
This began our after-school ritual for a week or so. Every day the kids picked their after-school snacks fresh from the backyard. I never knew if they were cherishing the memories, but I certainly was.
Soon, the strawberries began to ripen quickly and our after-school snack ritual became our evening family activity a few times per week, filling buckets to the brim. I thought for sure the novelty had worn off and I’d begin to hear grunts and complaints soon. But I didn’t realize then what an impression our strawberry picking had made on Drew.
On Mother’s Day, in the middle of strawberry-picking season, Drew brought me a gift he had created at school. It was a book he had colored full of what he appreciated about me. On one page his words grabbed my eyes and my heart. “I love picking strawberries with you.” A few pages later he wrote, “I love gardening with you.”
A mother usually has a pretty good pulse on her children’s hearts, but never would I have predicted this. Drew, after all, is my child who would rather be doing other things besides gardening. He breaks out in a sweat when the temperature breaks 80 degrees. Frankly, I thought he was such an eager participant in the strawberry picking solely because he likes strawberries. And 74 degree weather.
Apparently it was much more than that. As I watched Drew and his sister gorging themselves with strawberries on the trampoline, I drank in the moment.
Sometimes it’s easy as a mom to think I have to buy all the latest gadgets or plan the most spectacular road trips or craft the perfect Pinterest-worthy Valentine’s Day box in order to make memories for my children. But do you know what was missing from his Mother’s Day book? Anything that I had ever bought him. The book was filled instead with ordinary moments: talking to one another before bed, gardening together, picking strawberries together. Those were the memories that mattered to him.
Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents–any one of us who has a special child in our lives–we need to remember this. It’s not what we buy or how much time we spend planning something special that makes an impact in that child’s life. It’s being there. Doing life. Asking them to join us in what we’re doing, even if it’s work. This is what makes memories. This is what they will treasure and will pass on to future generations.