It’s school holiday time, and with all the children together most days it’s natural to take more notice of how the sibling and family dynamics are working.
Natural, but not a good idea. Holiday time is a bit of a pressure cooker, it’s the best and the worst of times. By the end of most days I keep concluding that our family is hopelessly dysfunctional.
Point in case: yesterday a friend of mine brought her two young children to play, and as they were leaving Hannah repeated wistfully: “I wish she was my sister, instead of …”
Then she stopped, looking at me. She couldn’t choose which sibling she wanted to replace. Then she settled on one, the one she plays with and fights with most intensely, and whispered his name.
School holiday time is more work for me, of course, to be juggling our social schedules and finding a balance between rest days at home and days out and about, seeing friends and spending time with each other.
I try to be on top of things, try to get them to practise their piano, and their French, and especially their manners, but it’s often a losing battle.
The screaming coming from the backyard is a bit louder than usual and I go out to see Naomi on the ground beside the clothes-line, sobbing, white-faced, eventually needing an x-ray.
She’d broken three rules in one minute and was feeling the result. And I’m thinking, is she trying to get attention with all this rule-flouting? Do we have too many rules? Are we constraining them too much?
I realise that I’m constantly looking at this little family and trying to judge it, trying to assess and weigh every interaction between the children, between them and myself and Peter, between the two of us. It’s exhausting, and I wonder why I am doing it?
Is seeking to pin us all down and know exactly the what and why of everything we each do and think and feel a way of trying to gain control over these days?
Life is fluid, ever-changing. And our family is growing all the time, not only by the addition of children, but their friends, and ours as well, godparents, and now even (joy!) a first cousin.
I need to remember that I love this openness to life, which leads to more openness to life, with all its crazy daily joys and insane levels of noise, its pockets of calmness and oceans of chaos. And remember that it’s all saturated in God’s grace, his presence, his providence.
Yes, sometimes we’re as dysfunctional as any sitcom family, and other times we can seem quite virtuous, but there’s little point me trying to pin down and label bits of our family’s life because it is life. It just as soon slips off the table and dances away, bestowing kisses and broken bones as it sees fit.
The best I can do is sit and wonder and watch it swirl around and try to see God’s reflection in it. As they say, “C’est la vie”.