Last weekend I found myself sleeping on a grass field under the stars. Living in west Los Angeles, it’s a rare opportunity to see the stars between nights blanketed in ocean fog or the dimming effect of the city lights. But on this night, flanked by sleeping Boy Scouts scattered across a grassy field, clusters of the brightest stars shone down on us as we settled into our sleeping bags. As I drifted to sleep, I stared into the heavens letting my mind wander. Thoughts of my growing two-year-old entered my consciousness and of his younger brother expected to enter our family in a few months. In a self-examining moment I imagine many young parents experience, I began to ask myself probing questions such as, “How am I doing as a young father?” “What does my son need from me that I’m not presently giving?” “What kind of example am I to this precious little one?” As a first-time parent, such internal inquiry comes to me frequently as I travel the journey of perpetual “firsts.” Before I had a chance to answer the many questions that entered my mind, I drifted asleep. The following morning I awoke with those questions still on my mind. As I sat up to survey my surroundings, I noticed a moist sensation that completely enveloped me. I quickly realized that the nightly dew had visited us, coating our sleeping bags in a light blanket of moisture.
Dew plays an interesting part in the Southern California ecosystem. I’ve always been amazed at the vast array of disparate plants that can grow in this naturally dry landscape. In the same garden you can find everything from desert cacti to blooming perennials to colorful tropical varieties. What I find remarkable is that Los Angeles ranks as one of the driest major cities in the country averaging a mere 14 inches per year. How can such an array of plants grow in such an environment? I’ve never claimed to be a botanist, but I believe this can be attributed in part to the continuous, nourishing, and nearly imperceptible dew that descends each evening. Dew may be quiet and unnoticed, but its steady influence empowers a variety of plants to grow and develop.
This brings me to the realization I had waking up in my damp sleeping bag on that sunny morning in Los Angeles. Oftentimes as a parent I hold myself to the wrong standards. While my inclination may be to measure myself by the sheer inches of rain I provide to my growing boy, perhaps what he really needs is consistent, mindful acts of love like the nightly dew. What fatherhood requires of me isn’t a periodic downpour, but a daily, nourishing effort to help a child grow. Mother Theresa, a woman of immeasurable influence in the lives of countless individuals was attributed to have taught, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” As I continue to grow alongside my toddler, my only hope is to echo this sentence-long sermon by offering my child a quiet daily dew of love, trust, and mindful example. I can’t wait to see how he blooms.
Written by Josh Ostler, contributor, Seeing the Everyday
Young children are naturally curious as they grow and learn to explore the world around them. Their investigative minds may see the wonder of flour being spilled onto the kitchen floor for finger drawings or discover in Mom’s makeup bag a new set of art tools for the bathroom sink or mirror. As adults, we might come upon such situations in shock and think immediately of the required clean-up or replacement cost for anything potentially ruined. We may feel exasperated in such moments—particularly with our above-average explorers who seem to frequently find themselves in similar messes.
Contributing author Katie Miller shared a wonderful solution to defusing frustration or anger as young children are learning. When Katie was young and would get into a big mess or sticky situation, her mother, instead of reacting harshly, chose to laugh and get out the camera. Such instances were so frequent that they became known as those “don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera” moments, and the evidence is preserved throughout old photo albums. As a mother herself, Katie has practiced getting out the camera, and she reports that it has saved many hurt words and harsh tones from her children’s ears, preventing unnecessary divisions.
Katie’s suggestion has benefited us, and we shared her suggestion last year in hopes that it would also benefit our readers. Due to the tremendous response, we are making the “don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera” promotion an annual event to remind us all to keep perspective and snap a picture. Here are two images from last year’s winning submissions:
This year we have partnered with Becky Higgins, whose philosophy is to “cultivate a good life and record it.” We first met Becky in person a year ago when she contributed a story to the magazine, and we had the privilege of photographing her family. We saw first-hand her awareness of the little things—the conversations, spills, simple games, reading—that occur daily in her home. She makes an effort to live them well, and she promotes documenting our everyday events to more frequently turn our focus to them. To simplify memory-keeping, Becky created Project Life. We have found that her solutions to documenting the everyday encourage us to be more aware of the seemingly small yet meaningful events that we experience in any given day. We are delighted to be partnering with Becky and appreciate her generous giveaway offer, a Project Life® Core Kit, Album, and Big Pack of Photo Pocket Pages ($88 value). Sample pages of how Project Life® can be used for your don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera images:
We would love to hear about your don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera experiences! Post your photos along with a brief description on our Facebook timeline or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be collecting photos and descriptions throughout the month of April (giving time to encounter your own experiences!), and at the end of the month, we will randomly select five contributors. One recipient will receive a Project Life® Core Kit, Album, and Big Pack of Photo Pocket Pages of the winner’s choice plus a 1-year subscription to Seeing the Everyday. Four additional recipients will each receive a one-year subscription to Seeing the Everyday.
When we speak of the word attachment, we refer to the psychological and emotional connections wired in our brain during the first 18 months of life, as well as the nurturing processes that continue to influence us beyond infancy. Strong familial attachments play a vital role in our relational capacities. Better understanding about how strong, secure attachments form and why they matter can help us become more thoughtful and intentional about this important process.
While it is true that we cannot return anyone to an infant state to rewire this process, the nurturing we receive after infancy is just as needed, and has the power to heal and restore. Consistent sincerity and warmth in ordinary interactions help cement and heal these important emotional attachments one day at a time. As Marian Wright Edelman has stated so well, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
In our research article we discuss what attachment is, why it is important, and how it continues to develop. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, page 108, brings to our attention that “Attachment makes the child want to be good for the parent . . . [and that] children endeavor to become like those to whom they attach, creating a natural, instinctive learning model from parents” without compulsory means. In the story “Kneading Confidence,” a young mother describes how her father gently “instilled in [her and her siblings] confidence and capacity—in a way that only he could manage,” forging both stronger ties to each other and training for a life of awareness and giving. From another perspective in “Rebuild Our Nest,” a mother tells of the intricate challenges her family faced when adopting a young girl from an Eastern European orphanage. She recounts insights learned from her own father as they have helped this new daughter to feel loved, becoming one of their own. And in “Letters to Mommy” we read of a child’s deep yearnings, expressions, and desires for her mother after an early death.
Each story becomes a strong statement that the contribution of fathers and mothers is irreplaceable in the life of a child. Their contribution affects all of us, throughout our entire lives. No effort is wasted in forging healthy attachments—for in relationships nothing is really routine.
Daryl Smith, Editor-in-Chief
Issue no 22 reinforces the value of communicating to commune, taking time, and reconnecting with those around us as we walk and work through the needs of the day. Communication can lift and move, guide and teach, and most importantly reinforce our caring acts. Grenville Kleiser penned it so well, “Nothing touches the soul but leaves its impress, and thus, little by little, we are fashioned into the image of all we have seen and heard, known and meditated; and if we learn to live with all that is fairest and purest and best, the love of it all will in the end become our very life.” Recognizing that no effort is wasted, putting the relationship first gives us greater resolve to continually commune with one another.
Excerpt from “View from the Editor,” Seeing the Everyday No 22
Available with any new subscription ordered by July 22.
Learning to honor one’s country can be instilled at a young age, naturally leading to a respect for and contribution to community. Reflecting on patriotism, Rob Wirthlin shares his early recollections of honoring the flag.
I don’t know exactly when I knew how important our flag is. It was something you just knew—something you just did—because that’s what Dad did.
I remember always standing up, taking off my hat and placing my hand over my heart at every parade I went to as a kid. I remember feeling how important it was at every football game, sporting event and Scouting activity that everyone else stand and pay attention too. We flew the flag on every holiday. We tried to never, ever, let it touch the ground. You just did these things because it was our flag—our country’s flag. My grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters and those I respected did it too. Even now, the tradition continues. Just the other day, I stood and put my hand over my heart as our national anthem was played. Beaming up at me was my two-year-old daughter, her hand over her heart, just as proud as she could be. I never told her to do it; she just knew it, too.
By Robert Wirthlin
Seeing the Everyday Issue No 2, available by contacting us.