Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Yesterday was my usual, though hardly unremarkable, day with Brooklynn.
At 10-months-old she can now easily pull herself up to stand and 'cruise' while holding onto the furniture. At my coaxing she will take a few, tiny little steps toward me all by herself, only to wobble and fall down on her thickly diapered bum, and then look at me with a big grin.
Watching her I was reminded of a book I read a couple of years ago called This Blessed Mess, by Patricia Livingston. It's a marvelous book that came to me at a time in my life when everything was at loose ends. Life hit me broadside and in the midst of it, in one of those moments of grace, I found this book -- or perhaps it found me.
The author, like me, was pondering one of the big questions that so many parents face -- how is that when you think you're doing everything "right," life can so quickly fall into chaos? Sometimes the disorder is just the pandemonium of everyday life with kids and sometimes it's a bigger turmoil.
When that discord involves our children growing up and venturing out it's so hard to let them go it alone. Patricia Livingston illustrates that not only is it possible, but we often have no choice but to let our loved ones go it alone. Meanwhile, we are on the other side, cheering them on and praying our hearts out. Just like when they are toddlers taking their first steps. It doesn't do any good to stand behind them and move their legs to show them the motion. And it really doesn't work to stay beside them and take a hand. As anyone who has tried to walk with a teetering tot will tell you, it tends to throw them off balance, with the free arm reaching across their body to grab hold of you. But instead if you stay in front of them, give them some distance and encourage them to walk towards you, eventually they will figure it out and their small steps become big strides.
As I'm writing this, I'm reminded that letting my kids figure things out for themselves is a lesson that I have to keep relearning. I have to trust that Dan and I gave them a good foundation and that we can still offer advice and direction -- when we're asked. (Okay, and sometimes sneak it in when they don't know enough to ask.) But for the most part, they have to figure it out for themselves -- the parenting, the budgeting, and how to work together on all of it.
We keep the door open. The lure of food always works, so Monday nights are family dinners when they all come over, the living room is strewn with toys, the table is laden with a home cooked meal -- or pizza, depending on my mood and energy level. And there, in the midst of all that blessed bedlam, we listen as they try to figure out teething, interest rates, budgets, jobs, and cars that are compatible with car seats.
And when they pack up the diaper bags, the babies, some leftovers and head out the door, we find our respective seats in our comfy chairs, and sometimes wish we could start all over and raise our family once again. But mostly we're just really thankful for our peace and quiet, and being just the two of us.
Life is chaotic, the storms come and go. Somehow we find the strength to get through. Sometimes we don't know how we manage to get through. After our crew left last night, Dan and I looked at one another and without saying a word we knew what the other was thinking. How did we ever do it?