As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Saying No

It’s after 10:00 am and I’m still in my pjs, a rarity for me.  We were invited out with a friend this morning, and after accepting (because it’s a dear friend who I never get to see) I had second thoughts.  Yesterday we had two major outings – a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon (made more crazy by reduced ferry service to the Peninsula where I live which resulted in long waiting lines with a crying newborn and misbehaving older children cooped up in a van) and an Orchestra concert in the evening, which involved dropping off a few of my younger children to hang with Nana (because the last time we took them to a sophisticated event they were, well…not sophisticated.)  We had a very full, great day, but by the time we crawled into bed after 11 pm we were all exhausted.

 There was a time when I felt guilty about declining an invite anywhere.  We live a good 35 minutes out of town (more this summer, if you consider the aforementioned reduced ferry service), and I sort of felt like it was my responsibility to bring my entire crew to town whenever I was invited so that I wouldn’t miss the chance to be with people.  Last summer in particular was a summer of “say yes to EVERYTHING!” And every morning we were corralling our whole crew and lugging everyone out in the name of not missing opportunities for them, or for me.  In the process however, sometimes I think what we end up missing is the opportunity to just be together.
I’m finding that I interact differently with my kids when we’re out, and I’m visiting.  Especially as they get older, inevitably they want a lot more of my intellectual attention.  They want to have conversations about the things going on in their head, the birds flying by, whatever happens to catch their fancy. They may not get the fact that I haven’t seen this person in many months, and that catching up with them requires my children to be quiet and respectful.  I’m not saying I should never go see anyone or make my kids wait while I visit, but I do think it makes it harder if I’ve spent more time out than at home.  You see, when I’m home for three days and out for two, I can spend those days at home loving them, listening to them at length and generally being with them, so that when I need to tell them that we’re in public and they’re just going to have to hold that thought, it’s not such a huge sacrifice.  When I’m out all the time, like last year, life is just too full of me telling them to wait – wait until we get through this checkout line, wait until we’re across this parking lot, wait until we’re past this busy intersection, wait – wait – wait.  Sometimes, I find, we need to just be.

The first few weeks of David’s life really put this in perspective for me.  Week #1 was full with my husband unexpectedly pulling an 80-hour workweek.  I thought, “we’ll just get through this and he’ll be home on vacation.”  But when that first week of vacation came along, it too was eaten up very quickly.  We celebrated my oldest son’s birthday and were preparing to go on a family vacation the following week, so I shifted my thinking to just get through this second week, and then we’d be away, on vacation, with nothing to do but just be together as a family.  I didn’t anticipate how clingy my youngest children would be, that they would not take part in any of the children’s programs offered, and that I would spend most of my time corralling children in a hotel instead of being with my husband and taking in the amazing parents sessions in the morning, or corralling said little ones again while my husband took the kids on older kid activities in the afternoon.  When we finally got home I wanted to cry – he was going back to work that Monday and I felt like our vacation, and the first three weeks of David’s life, had just slipped away.
As it turns out however, the return to work also signified a return to normal for us.  It was the first time in my newborn’s short life that I was able to be home more than we were out.  Getting used to a new normal is so important to me when I bring home a new baby, and when that time butts heads with the inevitable busyness of summer it means saying no a lot more in order to preserve that time.

I realize of course, how incredibly blessed I am to have friends who want to invite me places, and I hope this doesn’t come across as ungrateful.  I hope my friends continue to invite me places, because when the timing jives with what we’ve got on the go (or rather what we don’t have on the go) then I love to snap it up. But I am also very grateful for the friends who make the effort to come to see me, and who are okay when I respond, “I’m sorry, I can’t come out today but you’re welcome to come here.”  I’m grateful for those whose invites consist of an open-ended offer to meet me in town the next time I happen to be in town for something else, so I can make the most of my days out without using up another free day by going to town. I’m grateful for those who continue to be patient and reach out, and who are understanding when I say no.  It won’t always be this way, but it is now.
This morning, as I watched time ticking and thought of all the housework I had to catch up on after yesterday’s day out, I thought “thank goodness I’m not going out this morning.”  And then my newborn smiled at me, and I looked at his sweet face for an extended period of time – not feeling the pressure to get ready to go anywhere or do anything.  And my other kids each wandered over to kiss him and love him, they also still in their pjs since they slept in after their late night, and I realized housework isn’t the only thing that benefits from us being home.  Family time is so important, and easily slips away in the busyness of everyday life.  And when that time involves children who are getting older by the day, and will eventually no longer be under my roof it hits me – being home is a good enough excuse in and of itself to stay home.  There will come a time in my life when it’s easy for me to say “yes” to all the things I don’t want to miss out on.  But if I chose too many of those things now, what I’ll end up missing out on is the precious young lives of my little ones. And that is not something I am willing to trade.

Us, not going anywhere.

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