Running through the backyard barefoot, eating watermelon that drips down your face, and staying up late to catch fireflies in the last rays of light; that’s what childhood is all about, isn’t it? That carefree part of your life when you can truly just live in the moment.
I feel fortunate enough to have grown up in a time before technology really took off. I spent summers using my imagination, not my phone, and I like to think I’m a better adult for it. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for parents these days to give their kids that same experience.
That is, until I happened upon Danielle Awwad’s beautiful Instagram page, Little Farm Photography.
Awwad is a photographer and mom of three who documents her kids Allie, 5, SJ, 3, and Jake’s, 2, everyday life as they grow up on their farm in Marshall, Michigan.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think these photos make farm life look like some kind of paradise. From the brightly toned colors to the kids’ purely innocent expressions, Awwad captures the essence of living with an appreciation for the outdoors.
“It is rare you will find them indoors during the spring, summer, and fall,” Awwad tells Babble of her kids’ everyday routines. In fact, Awwad limits the youngins to 30 minutes of screen time a day, the rest is spent looking for animals and insects, playing in the hay barn, or going on “treasure walks.”
“My daughter Allie loves to make treasure maps and hide things, such as rocks (the treasure), for us to find,” Awwad explains. “She is a wonderful artist! She will sit on the patio with her markers and draw a very detailed map of where she has planted the treasure. Then we all set off on an adventure to find it.”
How sweet is that?
And rocks aren’t the only things to find on their family farm. The Awwads also have a chicken coop, where the chickens act more like pets than suppliers of tomorrow morning’s eggs. “We have had chickens since before they were born,” Awwad tells Babble. “So our hens have come to adore the kids and enjoy the love and attention they get from them.”
Rolling around in the hay and playing with farm animals is all well and good, but Awwad also explains the cognitive and emotional benefits of the farm life she and her husband Stephen have set up for their kids.
“I feel that in today’s world it is easy to be distracted from your present life. Living in the country cuts out so many of those distractions and allows my husband and I to be present in the moment with our children.”
Without toys and TV shows and apps to worry about, Awwad is allowing her kids to rely on their imagination as entertainment.
“Their imaginations are unlike any I have ever seen,” says Awwad. “They can pick up a stick and suddenly, in their minds, they are on a boat trying to defeat Captain Hook.”
But before you get too envious, know that Awwad, like every parent, has her concerns for the way she’s raising her kids.
“I feel that growing up on a farm can lead to being sheltered and that, if not discussed, as they get older they could face challenges as they venture out in the world on their own.”
Awwad and her husband work to counter this fear by exposing the kids to different environments and cultures through travel. But for those of you looking to get back to your roots and foster a deeper appreciation for nature, Awwad offered this advice:
“Explore the outdoors together as a family. Lay with your children in the grass, be excited that you are outside. When you are excited they become excited. The more you do these things the more their love will grow.”
But overall, the most important thing to Awwad is having her family together. When asked to recall one of her favorite moments on the farm, Awwad opened up about her son SJ’s heart defects. According to Awwad, her son SJ has had three open heart surgeries and one gastrointestinal surgery in his three short years of life. Because of this, Awwad and her husband have had many hospital stays, which keeps her apart from her other kids.
So her favorite moment? When she, Stephen, and SJ finally returned home from the hospital.
“As we pull down our extremely long driveway I always begin to get very emotional because I feel so blessed and grateful we made it home again and are still a family of five,” describes Awwad. “We pull up to the house and are greeted with our other children who are overjoyed to see their brother. Then life begins to settle back into what is our normal.”
And may I just say, their “normal” seems pretty special.
(Anyone else thinking of running out of the office and heading to the nearest farm? Yeah, me neither … )