I can still remember it like it was yesterday, the first time I ate strawberries straight from the strawberry patch. I had eaten strawberries my whole life, but in that moment I tasted my first one.
Their fragrant strawberry smell overwhelmed me and in that moment they ranked higher than any dessert I’d previously consumed. And I’ve eaten a lot of fabulous desserts!
The 12-year-old me wondered why I didn’t know that strawberries could taste so good. I picked them straight from the patch and as the juice dripped down my chin and over my fingers, I was completely oblivious to the bumblebees and other insects zooming around me. This in itself was astounding because back then I was afraid of most insects.
I felt strangely connected to the world as I celebrated the absolute perfection of one of the most common fruits.
Had I taken strawberries for granted? Why was I ignorant of the perfection of strawberries straight from the patch?
When we first moved to Kentucky I drove past strawberry patches, wondering if I could get out there and repeat the summertime experience of my childhood.
Life was so busy back then that I never made time to do it.
This summer is different. I am home. A lot.
The strawberries arrived late this year because of a lot of rain. I put my name on a waiting list of 250 people to get the freshly picked berries.
I was lucky enough to get two gallons.
Right now, the scent of strawberries fills my kitchen as I prepare to can them with my son so he will have strawberry jam for his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I am wiping away tears of joy.
I once heard it said that childhood is like summer — fun and over too quickly.
This is absolutely true.
The other day a little girl, who lives down the street, gave me a hand-picked bunch of wildflowers from a nearby pasture. My heart overflowed with the memory of my daughter giving me flowers from the same field. And now my baby girl is 22 years old.
Was my daughter’s childhood over too quickly? Yes? Just like the summer.
Was it always easy? Was every day like eating strawberries? No. But sometimes, yes.
I mean let’s face it: a child literally learns to walk by falling.
Was my daughter’s childhood good? Yes. It is the good that shapes us to be the adults we are meant to be.
Do horrible things happen to children, things that shape and alter their physical, psychological and emotional well-being? Yes.
Sometimes summer gets interrupted, and there aren’t enough strawberry memories to get the child through.
What do we do as adults to help heal this?
Recognize it. Then we will be able to help the child recover from the damage.
How? First, heal ourselves. Look at where we need to grow and heal. In the human condition, pain is inevitable. And so is is love.
Next, do all you can to teach your child to learn how to navigate the pain, and find love through it all. Basically, your job is to help your child grow to be joyful. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, you can do this by:
- Providing a positive environment
- Creating daily routines that support positive feelings
- Teaching your child emotional intelligence and social skills
By teaching your children emotional intelligence you are making it possible for them to feel. And strong social skills make it possible to be emotionally literate. This means you are teaching your children to be joyful. Not happy all the time, joyful.
Joy is a decision to accept what is, and not judge it as good or bad, right or wrong.
A joyful person feels all the emotions, unafraid to weep, sing, shout and laugh. He or she knows how to navigate the wavy waters on this amazing journey called life.
So fill your your heart with joy and share it with your child. Look for the summer strawberry moments in life. Then, reinforce those moments and remember them often. Take pictures to remember. Many years from now, your child may be making strawberry jam and remembering the love.