I met the Hutchinson family in the wee hours, before the rising of the sun, on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota… the beautiful front yard of the place they call home. Coffee and the sunrise and back to their house for their favorite Saturday morning routine. Alicia, the mama, so graciously wrote out the breathings of her heart to accompany the images I created of her family. Her words are strung throughout the photographs below...
"Growing up, I was never the teenager you’d call to babysit or work in the church nursery. Motherhood was never on my radar. I didn’t play with dolls or pretend to be a mommy.
That life seemed too monotonous for me. I wanted bigger, better, more.
So when two pink lines on a plastic stick stared me in the face at age 19, one month after I graduated high school, I knew I had some mental adjustments to make.
The realization of what I was saying no to because of what I was saying yes to didn’t fully compute until February 26th, 2002 at 2:22pm.
The doctor handed me my brand new baby boy and everything I thought I always wanted silently tiptoed out the door, allowing all the space for my heart to swallow up this perfect human that I never knew I needed.
I realize now how lucky I was to, so early in my life, find out what I was created for.
Years and cross-country moves and so many joys and heartbreaks later, I’ve stretched my heart to fit three more beautiful babies.
I keep waiting for that original desire to creep back in—that yearning I had when I was so young to return and remind me of that other life I thought I wanted.
It never has.
My life isn’t what I had envisioned, but isn’t that always the best? Like the best surprises are the ones you couldn’t have dreamed up yourself?
We have Boy Scout meetings and baseball games. We take spelling tests around the dining room table and mend scraped knees in the bathroom. We make messes in the kitchen and clean it up together. We create models of battlefields and experiments out of vinegar. We go out on the town and we stay in and read on the couch.
We laugh and cry and argue together.
It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty. And I’ve learned in this walk of motherhood that some of the simplest things in this life are some of the most beautiful too.
I look at my son, that same face that changed my life so long ago.
In an instant. In a push. Two new people in one hospital bed.
That same little boy that I kissed and sang to each night, now can shave and look me in the eye and buy songs on iTunes.
That realization that our time with him here, in our home, is quickly dissipating, I question so many things.
Are we laughing enough?
Are we teaching enough?
Are we reading enough?
Are we doing well enough?
Are we loving enough?
The immensity of this parenting gig can swallow you whole if you let it.
But I find that snapshots of the past are all-telling.
An honest look at your everyday can make such a difference in moving forward with expectation and intention.
I can find peace with my little life-changer leaving home because I know we’ve loved him hard and we’ve loved him well. And not just with him, but with all our children...
The way Jack finds his way to his favorite place near my side to cuddle with me. The action is the same, his body just gets bigger.
The way Sophia can let everything go and sing and dance her heart out without fear of feeling silly or embarrassed because we’re all doing it with her.
The way Vera breathes deeper when I pick her up and her moon eyes shine in my direction when she does something well.
The way Noah, my oldest, still wants me to be the last to tell him goodnight and uses that time to tell me what’s on his mind.
The way we all laugh at inside jokes that are only funny to us.
That’s how I know.
That’s how I know that no matter how our parenting career began or how many things I feel I did poorly or how many times I’ve messed things up…I know.
I know that bond with my kids is thick and true.
And I know that even though these years are speeding by too quickly, these children find their home with me—with us.
The days at the lake finding treasures from nature and learning to skip rocks.
The hours by the fireplace reading thousands of pages of books.
The dozens of cookies we bake together.
These are the things we will treasure always. These are the memories we will have forever.
I want to bottle them up, tuck them away in my heart for those days twenty years from now when my house is clean, but holding less people.
I know that when that time comes, I can rest easy.
That no matter what happens, we loved our children well—
and I can hold that dear forever."
(Alicia has inspired me toward a more rich and joyful homeschooling journey, as I know she has for mamas all over. You can find more of her teaching, words and beauty on her blog Investing Love at aliciahutchinson.com.)