I had toyed with the idea of driving out to Parke County, Indiana for the Maple Syrup Festival for a few weeks. It wasn't a priority, but more of a wait-and-see thing. See how the weather was, if anything more enticing came up, if we were in the mood for a drive that day. As the morning of the festival slowly unfolded, it became clear that it was going to be a gorgeous day, one unlike anything we'd seen since the waning days of fall. Clearly it was the perfect day for a drive.
Mike wasn't keen on the idea, though. He's not one for just meandering, especially with children in tow. And really, what did I expect from someone who still insists on buying Log Cabin? Clearly, pure maple syrup is not high on his food agenda. Out of the blue I threw out the idea of Elena and I going together, and leaving the boys here to do their own thing. It was the best idea I've had in a long time.
I had forgotten how easy Elena is. I threw a couple of snacks in the car, she grabbed a book and her iPod, and we were off. No diaper bag, no toddler-friendly snack contraptions or sippy cups, no stealthy arranging of the schedule to navigate around nap time. Just me and the kid in the car in under 30 minutes from the time I had the idea while lounging around in my pj's.
Sap being collected in a bag at a maple syrup camp.
Sugar shack at Foxworthy's Sugar Camp, where sap is boiled into maple syrup. Stand downwind and it smells heavenly, like you've died and gone to pancake heaven.
I wouldn't dream of our family without Eli. We are complete as a family of four, and he brings so much joy and laughter and love into our lives. Still, I had a warped sense of how I would manage with two. I would do everything with Eli I did with Elena, while still giving her all the attention she had before. My kids were five years apart, for pete's sake, how hard could it be?
Most days it feels as if neither child has gotten the patient, attentive mother they deserve. We try to do things together, and someone invariably falls apart. I spend time with them separately and feel pulled and distracted.
This trip was a balm to my worried-mama soul. With just the two of us in the car, we were able to talk in a way we hadn't in ages. We listened to songs together that we both love and sang at the top of our lungs. We'd never been in this part of Indiana before, and we pointed out things that caught our attention. There was no schedule, so we took our time. I watched and listened to my girl in a way that I hadn't for much too long.
Looking back on the day, I realized that this is what Elena and I need from time to time. We don't need to leave town to do it, but I do need to make time specifically for her. I need to pull us away from the distractions and find places for us to explore together. A toddler demands this of you, refuses to be ignored. Not so with an older child. They can while away the few precious hours when they're not in school with their books, their imaginations, their games or TV. Before you know it, days have gone by and you haven't made a real connection. I don't want to look up and realize that she's too old to crave that connection with me anymore.
We went to a festival. We ate pancakes with local syrup and local sausage. We went to sugar camps and learned some things. We found a covered bridge and explored all around it. We did all of those things, but we accomplished so much more.