We’re in the last weeks of summer holidays. We’ve had a packed summer. It has been wonderful. Although not every moment of it has been wonderful. Some moments felt hard. Even when they were “supposed” to be fun.
We are lucky enough to have family who lives by the ocean, so our travels to be with family take us to the ocean. Ah, what a gift! Dipping our prairie toes in the ocean, collecting sea shells, building sand castles, learning about sand crabs, smelling the ocean wind, being together with family and friends who we love so much. That happened. Being out of routine, complaining about having to wear sunscreen, my kids jumping over couches. That happened, too. We had trouble getting a flow. One day, my son yelled, “I’m not wearing sunscreen!! If I have to wear sunscreen I am not going to the beach!!” Really. Really?! In that moment (it wasn’t the first of its kind), I just felt like giving up. Okay, then. The exciting build-up was tremendous, we waited for the vacation, we took all the effort to come and now you’re not going to the beach at the ocean? Really. But of course he went. And on that particular day, my husband was the one with gentle patience to get the sunscreen on the kids and steer us to the beach. I, on the other hand, had a little cry. Because it wasn’t just that moment – it was all the other out-of-routine moments, too. All the moments that made it feel like our family is chaotic, when in fact, it is all just normal, busy family life. The older I get, the more I am becoming aware of my own need for quiet, unstructured time alone. I find that especially hard to find on vacations when we’re out of routine, and when I want to take the rare quiet moments that I do have to visit with family and friends that I don’t see very often.
We had amazing moments, too. Our kids spent time snuggling, playing and being with their grandparents. Our kids spent time with friends they don’t get to see very often. On a day that was too windy to go to the beach during the day, we went in the evening, and had an amazing time. The moon was full that night, and we stayed at the beach while the sun set and the moon shone brightly enough to swim. My daughter danced on the beach in the full moonlight – twirling around and letting her arms fly free.
Photo by Tanya Hoover. Playing on the beach as the sun went down.
And there was the woman on the airplane behind me, who took the time at the end of the flight to tell me that I’m a wonderful, patient mom and my kids are very sweet, and they are lucky to have me. She noticed. She noticed how I played lego superheroes with my son instead of watching videos. She noticed how many little toys I picked up off the floor of the plane. She noticed how I navigated sibling conflicts. She noticed that even though my kids can be loud, demanding and active, they are kind, thoughtful and full of so much love. Being noticed felt pretty amazing. It reminded me to tell others when I notice them, too.
And there were more beautiful moments at home. Being at my niece’s wedding on the family farm that she and her husband are going to live on. Eating tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, and beets fresh from our garden. Biking as a family. Going to the lake with friends and sitting around a campfire together. Watching my 7-year-old play with my beautiful friend’s daughter of the same age – with as much enthusiasm as that same friend and I had playing together at the same age. Seeing our 7-year-old son and our 3-year-old daughter enthusiastically play together.
And there were other hard moments. Coming across my dad’s rolled vehicle in the ditch on a drive home. Wow. There we were, seeing what just happened. There was my dad. Out of the van, and okay. The other passengers were okay, too, despite some bumps and sore muscles. We are so grateful. I just keep wanting to hug my dad close.
There were the whiny, bored moments at home. There were the sibling fights. There were the 3-year-old overtired acting out moments. There were swimming lessons that started out unpopular and it felt hard to know how much to push: and then we figured it out. We didn’t let our 7-year-old quit when he wanted to, and by day 4, he was saying that he wished the lessons were longer. On day 5, he cheered when it was time to start the lesson for the day. He had fun and learned important skills. But we did let our 3-year-old quit swimming lessons when she wanted to. Because on day 2, just when she was getting comfortable, an instructor picked her up into the water anyway, even though she was shaking her head, saying, “No!” and holding on to the edge as tightly as she could. I know the instructor had good intentions, but my daughter felt scared that her “no” wasn’t listened to, and she cried. And she didn’t want to go back. She’s 3. I believe it’s just plain okay to not be ready for swimming lessons when you’re 3. So my daughter quit, but my son continued on and thrived. We figured it out.
Today, I was feeling the stress of the constancy of parenting. My husband noticed and took the kids out to the park. I got some rare time alone to myself in the house. Right in the middle of garden produce season! I sat at the table with a bowl of fresh salsa, some tortilla chips and a glass of wine, and enjoyed the quiet, summery moment.
Circle of Security talks about the concept of “being with”. A quote from their Facebook page says, “Being-With opens ‘the possibility of possibility.’ Being-With includes recognition that every moment is new. Each moment (even the difficult ones) can offer fresh options. Being-With is a state of mind that trusts: ‘No matter what is happening, we’ll get through this together.’” Ahhhhh. Big breath. It is so true.
Some of the ups and downs I described might sound small. But in the midst of busy parenting life, where most of us don’t get much down time and we keep going even when what we need is a relaxing drink on the deck (but ours includes carrying a drink around while we keep helping the kids)…these moments feel hard. Small kids have big emotions and we’re immersed in that, trying to guide and support them. We’re asked to keep giving of ourselves even when we’re exhausted. And we do.
In the midst of all that, I can be really hard on myself. When we’re out of routine and my kids are loud and whining and I can’t find a parenting flow, I feel myself tighten. And then I’m mad at myself for being tense, and I think that maybe, if I could just not be tense, all this would feel easier. And I wonder, what is everyone else thinking of us right now? Or I just long for an elusive quiet moment to myself.
And then I remember grace. When I see people around me in the midst of difficult moments, I recognize that those around me mostly have good intentions. I know they are trying their best, and nobody knows what to do in every moment. And many of them are feeling a lot of grace for me – knowing that this is hard and it’s all okay. Maybe, just maybe, all I need to do is find that same grace for myself. To know that it’s okay that the hard moments were hard. They just were. I don’t need to have done anything differently. We were in that moment together, and we figured it out, and then we were in a new moment together. Life is made up of moments. All we need to do is try to be truly present for each moment we are in. To live it together, to have the confidence to trust that we will find what we need for this moment. And then, we also get to embrace those big, beautiful, God-given gifts of precious connecting moments of joy.
Years ago, I found an anonymous quote that sums it all up, “Exist in continuous creative response to whatever is present.”
So bring on fall and the new school year. We’re ready!