Raising Driftless Kids

Hello, August.  It’s been more than four months since we last saw “normal.” Four-plus months of a lot of family time, Lego-building, art projects and bread-baking. Four-plus months of missing our friends and family and the grim realization that this distancing is going to last for a while.

Ainsley Anderson

In a typical summer we’d be making several trips “up north” to see family. We’d also be trekking to a national park or exploring a new corner of the country. While I appreciate the financial savings of not going on a vacation, my wanderlust is not finding virtual travel enjoyable. I’m trying to plot where our next vacations might be, and I’ll admit it is fun to now have a “tweenager” who is interested in researching potential travel destinations. But, when will it be safe to embark on these adventures again? Nobody can really say, which is tough when you’re a natural planner, like I am. I’m embracing my gratitude for this beautiful corner of our state.

It has been fun spending time at home with my children, my mother and my husband. We’ve been doing some very necessary landscaping work that took the back-burner when we had an infant and then toddler. It’s been fun working out ideas for plants, materials and plans with my husband and then seeing those plans come to fruition. It’s been a nice way to get some workouts in while enjoying quality time and fresh air. In addition, our garden looks pretty fabulous this year. The rabbits and beetles seem to think so, too, and are keeping us on our toes.  

We’re trying very hard to get our children interested in helping with the garden, but instead the swing set and sand box seem to be more appealing. We’re thrilled to see that their bicycle-riding skills and chalk-art talents are developing nicely.  

Balance, I think, is the word that best describes our parenting philosophy. We encourage creative play, reading, art, imagination and outdoor time. We also really enjoy watching movies with our children. We’ve been burning through our cell data (come on, rural broadband) streaming movies on hot or rainy evenings, but those snuggles and giggles are well worth it.  We haven’t finished as many chapter books as I would have liked, but we’ve enjoyed quite a few board games. It’s all about finding balance and happiness.  

My favorite moments, however, involve fires and s’mores (or s’moreos for my dairy-allergic kiddo – did you know Oreos are vegan?). I absolutely love tossing some logs into our fire pit and hanging out with my children, watching them catch and name fireflies as dusk turns to night. I love identifying the constellations and listening to them discuss what they see in the night sky together while they run and tumble, burning off their sugar-rushes from those sweet campfire necessities.  

Our memories from this time are not exotic nor particularly adventurous, but they are special. I hope that you are also able to cherish this time in gratitude and health.  

Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is a teacher who enjoys sharing her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on education and kids.