WHAT KIDS TEACH US by Oryna Schiffman DISCLAIMER: Author accepts no liability for any readers seeking practical, sensible advice about child rearing.


I lug the basket of succulent snacks and the old wrought iron kettle into my minivan, and drive to school, humming. When the bell rings I run, hug-ready, across the playground, imagining how we’ll caress the fresh moss under the awakening pines. A backpack lands on my toes with a thud.

“Mama! Can I have a play date with Evan?!”

“You can have a play date with Evan tomorrow. Today is the first day of spring, remember?!” I whine, even before he can begin.

Every year since my kids could walk I’ve taken them to the forest on the first day of spring to gather moss, acorns, twigs, snails and anything else that’s worthy of the forest nymph’s elixir. We stir it up in a big old kettle, and leave it on a branch weave table under a tree for her. If it’s gone by morning we know that spring is here to stay. Without this very ritual, on this very day the nymph may just remain in her lair and forget to wake the forest from its languorous slumber. (READ: those rare occasions when we abandon the scheduled, sports and screens-driven mundane for the organic, spontaneous sacred are precious to me.)

By the time we pick up my oldest, he’s got a baseball game planned. And soon he’s whining along. Two against one. The kettle slams against the passenger door as I screechingly turn the corner in the direction of the baseball field. It’s over, I decide. Our quiet rituals have lost their appeal. The crunching of the leaves underfoot will forever be blasted out by the calling of outs, and safes, and scores and cheers. We’ve failed to instill in our children the stillness required to absorb the magic of the seasons. Then suddenly, from the back seat: “Mama, why do you plan important family events when Daddy’s not in town?”

I stop, though there is no stop sign before me. Important family events. Really? I sit there, reminded by my firstborn that it’s not the “First Day of Spring” as etched on the calendar which forges new beginnings. My rigidly defined rituals had become so coveted that they turned on me, like a potential lover scared off by stalking. There is no intrinsic value to these rituals. They are only valuable when they’re instrumental in bringing us together, in allowing slow, meditative time to unravel organically.

I smile and hand out the snacks.

“You’re right. We should really wait for Daddy.”

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