Friday, March 11, 2011

What A Hug Is Worth

     I am conscious of how much television viewing goes on in our house. We have limits. “Family Movie Night” I wouldn't sacrifice. A couple Fridays back the kids had a snow-day and to tell the truth, when Bruce walked in the door I really wanted to escape upstairs for a break with a book and a cup of tea. But like the runner who says, "I'll just make it to that tree” or mile marker or other such goal, I knew I'd get dinner finished, and then consider my quiet exit. We cleaned up the dishes after the meal. I decided to wait again, and instead had a cup of coffee with Bruce.
     I felt my legs aching, my brain was over-full. I did want to lie down. At that moment Max, who had helped me make dinner, wrapped his arms around me, smiled and said he wanted more time with me tomorrow and, “Oooh, how about a Family Movie Night?”
     I couldn’t say no. "Ponyo" was the choice. What a very sweet movie. My children love it and I have seen bits and pieces overtime to add up to at least one full viewing. Their faces were so adorable watching it, their comments so delectable. Bruce had Margaret on his lap, dipping tortilla chips into the salsa he‘d brought in. He worked hard to keep hold of the cup of coffee I spiked with Irish Mist (to his surprise and delight). Mary Pat's G-tube pump was providing her meal and her contented tummy allowed her to focus on the animation on-screen. She smiled and giggled.
     These are the moments I treasure. They will be memories all- too-soon. They sustain me in the hard times (like earlier that day when I thought I couldn't take one more tantrum or loud outburst). Parenting is hard work. Did anyone teach us it was otherwise? I read a great post on Elizabeth Scalia's blog, "The Anchoress," on how our culture has perpetuated an adolescent mindset of self-centeredness and self-justice. I have witnessed this in a few of my contemporaries. The phrases like "I've finally got my life back," as the youngest child enters college, or "As soon as they're eighteen they're outa’ here!" support my observation that we've become just too self-centered. Our children are with us for a finite amount of time. I don't wish it to be cut shorter. There will be a day when I don't have a little one in the house. It is difficult with six children under eight, one with special needs. I do at times consider the day when they'll be older and things will be a little easier and I'll be able to get more done. But truly, I don't wish these days away.
     The sweet moments I do treasure. I've had enough now with snow days and being cooped up and racking my brain to come up with one more activity, one more creative solution to a conflict. I respect my homeschooling friends. They're so well structured that all this is built into their days, and I do feel their children are remarkably "immediately-obedient." But if the snow hadn't caused the school closing, I wouldn't have been stretched a bit--and I also wouldn't have had the good moments that happened because of it. Max wouldn't have made seafood chowder with me, I wouldn't have seen his impressive drawings, we wouldn't have made oatmeal raisin cookies for Daddy, and more.
     I have suffered loss in my life. When I was five I lost a brother I desperately wanted when he was stillborn. I lost my father in early adulthood, a husband to divorce, a husband to sudden death, my mother right after, my nieces in a tragic tornado the same year as my mother, and within a decade my two fathers-in-law and beloved mother-in-law. I know very well that life is finite, sometimes very, very short. Every life is precious.
      When I whine and cry about not enough of this or too much of that, I remind myself that every day is a gift. I once had a vision of wrapping up my day in an imaginary box at night and giving it back to the Lord in prayer. It was his day to begin with; I hopefully started it with the intention in mind of pleasing him, so it seemed fitting to give it back to him. I think He even wants the crummy stuff back--even my outbursts and mistakes, my omissions and should-haves. He forgives a contrite heart. I try to remember this when I’m dealing with my children. They want to please and to do better. Max suddenly hugged me at the end of the movie when the little boy finds his mother. It was the best moment of the day.
     I forgive his mistakes and trouble listening. We’re pretty consistent with expectations, consequences and rewards, so I know he’s learning. Would I love it if he “got it” a lot sooner? Absolutely. But he will “get it” in time--as I will. We are all works in progress. Max’s hug was worth a million bucks: a special ribbon on my gift back to God. A sweet memory to sustain me throughout the more challenging times on earth. I’ll not forget it. It was better than any quiet time upstairs with a book and a cup of tea.

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