Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What to Do When Your Usual is Already Unusual

My oldest son's skip was a little lighter than usual as he ran down the gravel drive and into my arms for the always-loving but ever-brief hug.

"Guess what!!?!!" he asked, what was obviously a rhetorical question since he didn't even pause a breath for me to reply. "We don't have any homework today.  The Principal says so."

I raised my eyebrows at that one, knowing full well he would have a vocabulary and spelling test on Friday.  Special day or not, we'd be spending time with those two "activities."

He pushed the purple and black tiger striped booksack into my hands and headed off to the hen house to collect the day's brown offering.  Instinctively, I glanced down at the orange laces on his tennis shoes.  Since he'd learned to tie them himself, more days than not, he returns to me with the bunny ears drooping long in the dirt.  Today at least, they weren't dragging the ground. 

I followed behind to help unlock the trapdoor that kept the hens in the yard and waited for him to raid their nests.  Even behind the solid wood door, he kept talking.  "The Principal says we're to do something with our family tonight.....so what are we going to do?"

The school had sent home the brochure a week earlier announcing Monday, September 26 was National Family Day, a CASA supported initiative to promote parents being engaged with their children. 

I smiled at this boy whom I suddenly realized didn't have a clue.  He didn't understand the need for a Family Day because he has no idea what life was like for many families who had no time to spend together.  He didn't understand the need for conversation starters or even the need to encourage eating meals together.  These were just integral parts of his everyday life, not something to be taught, added, or even questioned. 

He and I both knew that as the sun began to dip low in the sky, we would hop on our bicycles and take the short trek a quarter mile down the driveway to the other end of the farm where Oma and Opa would be waiting with the usual Monday night family supper.  Oma, Opa, husband, me, and the three children would eat, talk, pray, laugh, and share of ourselves, forgetting how unusual was our usual in this modern world.

Afterwards, he and the twins would beg for a dip in the swimming pool, even if it were only for twenty minutes, and husband would oblige.  Then would come bathtime followed by each child having his turn both having a parent read him a book and also reading a book to husband or me.  Finally would come that precious time at day's end when daddy would pray individually with each child in turn.

This is our usual.  It is the expected.  So, I was to do something less than usual.

After homework (yes, we did it anyway), I gave the children the opportunity to watch a couple episodes of The Berenstain Bears, something we rarely do in our house.  Instead of going off as usual and catching up on my never-ending pile of housework while they were entertained, I chose to simply sit in the recliner with Wyatt, the two of us barely fitting in that cramped space.

Initially, he wiggled and squirmed as if this wasn't a good choice.  Still, I relished in the few comforting minutes of loving on my boy who is quickly becoming a man.  He might not enjoy my presence, but I would enjoy his.  Yet, when I stood up to go move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, Wyatt suddenly looked away from the screen and asked, "You're coming back to sit with me...right?"

Of course.

I snuggled back down next to him, wrapped my arm around his shoulder, and pulled him close.  Without a word, he lifted that hand and moved it to rub his hair and forehead, a silent request for mommy's loving touch.

In a couple years, we'll have to move to the love seat if we want to watch a show together.  As they turn into tweens and teens, I know it will get more difficult to encourage my children to engage with me, more difficult to continue coming up with creative ways to show them that they are special to our family.

That just means no matter how unusual our family's usual is, I'm still in the same boat as every other parent seeking to make a difference in the life of a child. 

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