The New Domesticity: Tending with Actions and Words
Last month, my children slipped away for a visit to the wildlife refuge. I didn’t expect to hear much from them, figuring they’d delight in their own sibling world. I was wrong. Soon, a steady stream of video clips sent to our family text thread chronicled their adventures: “We’re going on a nature walk!” followed by “I’d like to see a beaver” and “I’m told there are moose!” Swans, butterflies, and herons continued to fill my phone screen for the next hour (accompanied by my kids’ comical banter) and I felt incredibly loved: my children knew what would interest me and what would bring me joy. They knew how to tend to their mother.
Tending, or caring for another, is a learned art, one that develops over the years. Along the way, some actions of tending can admittedly be rather . . . inconvenient. (I’m reminded of my son’s eagerness to surprise our family with waffles one morning when he was about 7 years old. He mis-read the recipe calling for 3 tablespoons of sugar and added 3 cups of sugar.) Yet, when my phone delivers my child’s wildlife refuge update, “We found our reptile!” I know the years of patient, repetitive teaching were well worth it.
Over the last months, families have been thrown into extended periods of togetherness. I’ve come away with the conviction that both our actions and words are crucial elements in modeling for our children how to tend, how to care well for one another.
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