The weather between Wisconsin and Ohio has been described this week as "severe" - thunderstorms, high winds, hail, possible tornadoes and flooding. Not what this novice long-distance driver wants to hear. So when my dad and his wife mentioned that it might be prudent to stay a couple of extra days, we gratefully accepted. Our trip was scheduled so that we would not miss another week of farm school, but we've let go of all priorities this week other than traveling safely and enjoying this extra time with grandparents.
|Sheboygan, Lake Michigan|
I was apprehensive about lengthening our stay because our first day here was kind of horrible. For me at least. I feel like I am actively working through some major issues when I am traveling alone with my kids: self-consciousness, trust, patience, to name just three. Trust that my parents (all five of them, including inlaws and step) see the whole of who we are, the works-in-progress, not just the little snapshots that make me cringe. Trust that my kids are going to be true to who they are and what they are experiencing, whether it is total immersion in the world of cousin-play, or sudden overwhelming longing for home, or simply a need for time to adjust to a new place and new people - and that that is all OK. Self-consciousness about my parenting skills, about my children's behavior, about our interactions, my responses, their attitude, the food choices I make for our family, our values and priorities that lead me to make those choices. And patience with all of it! Though I am very grounded in our choices and our lifestyle when we're at home, I feel like I am quick to regress to a state of panic when we've been away from home for some time, and while it is getting better the older the girls get and the wiser (!) I become, it is painful to have it resurface for at least a day or so every single trip or visit. Haven't I lived long enough to let these things go? Haven't I already learned these lessons? Am I so (fill in the blank: dense, unevolved, stupid, spiritually disconnected, etc...) that I can't grow beyond these feelings that so negatively affect our time with family?
|Wing, Sheboygan, Lake Michigan|
Anika and I wrestled through the first day, a battle of wills, alternately threatening and consoling each other. It was mad-making for both of us. I felt like one big apology - feeling regret about our interactions, embarrassed in front of my dad and Liz, wishing that the equilibrium she and I have found lately was evident right now - so they could see what a good parent I am and what an amazing child she is. Well, Ani was where she was - she is growing more flexible as she ages (which is what I hope for all of us!), but I love and admire her ability to be in tune with what she needs, regardless of the group agenda. On what we thought was our one day here, she wanted nothing to do with hiking or being outside. She wanted to get in the car and drive home. She wanted me to herself, and when that wasn't possible (or so I thought), she declared she hated me anyway. Ouch. All of it was painful to me, and in case this hasn't happened to you, you cannot be your best self coming from a place of sheer embarrassment. It is ugly. So I just tried to let go. And do you know what happened? The more patient, calm people in our group (hi, Dad) took over. Eliza, Liz and I headed off into a beautiful birch wood - a part of the Ice Age Trail - while Ani sulked in the car with my dad. Quickly, however, she was dragging my dad out of the car to run and play on the small hills and boulders spread near the parking lot. By the time we returned, she was laughing, my dad was giggling, and the restart button had been pushed.
I had been carrying all of these bad feelings with me, but my dad understood. Liz understood. They've had kids, they have thirteen grandkids (with one more on the way); they've seen imperfection, and they love us all anyway. As do the other grandparents we've seen on our trip. I had declared, "We won't leave you for the last stop next time! This always happens, that my kids are overwhelmed and done with visiting and ready to go home!" - more apologies. My dad quietly remarked that maybe we were just needing more time, a little transition to being Here and then we'd have a nice visit. When we extended our time here, that is exactly what happened. Things were not Perfect, but Ani got one-on-one time with her grandparents. Eliza got to hang out and socialize and play and enjoy being in the midst of people she loves. I got some time alone (ahem) - we all got what we needed, time to connect and just be Here.