Monday, August 15, 2011

Family Talk

I am writing from a hotel room, where another child of ours awaits an important medical appointment tomorrow.  I have the gang with me, all the kids wanted to go on a road trip, and we have the blessing ahead of us of meeting friends here for dinner soon...fellow students in my ministry classes who I am looking forward to catching up with.

And I am tired, emotionally very, very tired.  It snuck up on me as I left this morning.  Dominick was home and had the car all gassed up and cleaned, ready to go.  He even had sandwiches and snacks all set up and wrapped in paper on which he had drawn a heart to say he loved me.  As I gave him a hug as we waited for yet another child to run back in for something they forget, I just leaned on him and wished I could stay put for awhile. 

I don't often give much thought to the emotional tole on myself, as I have more to contend with in the kids. But sometimes it is not easy.  The constant fears and late night conversations, the work at looking for ways to encourage more openness and emotional closeness, it is all actually very hard and yet very important work.  To heck with the homeschooling, this is far more important!

Kenny did very well with everything, but he was nervous and in the dark quiet of his room after the surgery he revealed to me that he spent some time staring in the mirror at his "old face", hoping that the next day would not bring a totally different face to look at in the mirror.  He said he was very afraid he wouldn't look like himself anymore, even though he really wanted to get the work done.  I shared with him that I too had been afraid of that very thing.  He sat up and asked me "Well, why didn't you say so Mommy?" and I told him that this was not my decision to make, that he was the one who would have to walk through this world with the face he had and he had to be happy with it, not me.  He got quiet for a moment then asked "Are you happy with it?" and realizing this was not the moment to thrust it back at him and ask if he was, I reassured him that I thought it looked fantastic...way better than I had anticipated.  Although I couldn't see his grin I could hear it in his voice as he responded " too...I still look like me, only better!".

He will have to wear a silicone sort of band aid over the scarring for the next several months, 24/7, in order to have the best results.  He told me how very happy he is that he won't have to do that at public school, that he knew the kids would tease him badly over that but that knowing he would be mainly at home, church and a few other places where he would feel "safe", he wasn't uncomfortable about that at all.  He said "See mommy?  Eve more good reasons to homeschool!" as if I had never given that one any thought at all myself.

Matthew is OK about his appointment tomorrow.  The harder part with him is the complete opposite of Kenny...getting him to articulate what he is experiencing is never easy.  He is a young man who has to work hard at expressing himself when it comes to things like this, so we have to practice ahead of time with me asking questions and helping him sort out what he wants to say ahead of time. 

Olesya's birthday was Friday, and I felt guilty about missing it.  We are having a small little celebration this Sunday for her, and I have yet to really plan it.  I will try and do some planning late tonight.  We are doing a treasure hunt theme...and the kids will have to follow a treasure map and hints to find the buried treasure.  What's the treasure?  Beats me.  But we are going to use our entire neighborhood and make it interesting.  Have I created it yet?  Nope, but it'll come to me eventually :-)

When we returned last night, it was sweet despite the loss of luggage...which by the way appears to be truly lost as of this morning with no one having a clue where it is.  It didn't just miss our flight, it is LOST.  With every pair of jeans in it that I own other than the ones I have on right now.  With Kenny's new pants in it too.  Anyway, we got in the house and the kids all asked if they had to go to bed yet, or could we all stay up and talk for awhile.  You know what?  Honestly, that is what we all seem to love to do best.  Angela asked if we could go lay on our bed and have a :family talk" so the kids all piled on or sprawled on the chair there and with a soft light glowing we took turns talking about our week away from one another.  I was informed about the major plumbing leak we had that Dominick discovered at 5:00 AM as he heard water running under the house.  They missed church to get a plumber there.  Dominick then quickly feel asleep and we all giggled as he snored in between our comments.  Kenny talked about the hospital and surgery, about our friends in Chicago and our flights.  The rest of the kids all took turns flopping this way and that on the bed as they told about all that they did with Lael, who watched them for the week for us and is always WAY more creative than I am (thankfully!), and about Mr. Steve and Miss Jane and their time spent with them on Friday when they were treated to a birthday lunch and treats out for Olesya's least she had a little something to mark the day.

We talked about "real school" starting soon, and how we will celebrate the first day of school next Monday with our own "Not Back To School" day where we will go do something fun outside, not stuck behind a desk or kitchen table.  Believe it or not, we already have logged about 180 hours per kid of school this summer, just by doing a little here and there.  The kids all said they didn't feel like it was much school at all, but it sure added up! 

And we dreamed a little, as so often happens during these impromptu family talks (with Dominick awake OR asleep!).  We dreamed about things we might one day do together, about trips we hope to take to visit people or places, about what they all might do when they grow up and what we might do when they fly the coop.  We gently tease, we laugh, we have gas and giggle about it, and most of all, we are grateful....grateful for this little tiny group of people on this earth where we are safe, where we feel secure and loved, where a hug is but an arm's length away.  It is what fills us all up when we are weary, it is what helps us be who we really are without artifice.  It is Real in a way nothing else ever is or ever will be.

I know that as they grow and mature, things will change.  I know distance may one day separate us all as dreams are pursued independently.  What my deepest desire is though, is that these days are carried with them forever into the lives they will eventually lead.  I also hope that somehow, some way, we can be a family that beats the odds and is counter cultural...remaining close in healthy ways even as our kids enter adulthood.  As I look around me at the isolation so many families inflict upon themselves through dysfunctional relationships and an inability to understand how distorted our society's idea of "family" has become, I wonder if we will eventually succumb, or if Team LaJoy will rise above it and manage to lead lives of extraordinary connectedness and recognition of the value of family you can truly count on. 

I am hoping for us to remain countercultural.  A family where siblings really, really enjoy being together and love one another.  A family where parents don't cling but kids enjoy their company as much as the parents enjoy being with them.  A family where love is not bought by offers of cars, houses or businesses.  A family where "I love you" is spoken easily and with meaning attached, not just out of habit.  It'll take even more work, and upping the ante as they grow older.  Bigger, bolder projects, larger dreams to accomplish as a family together. And no doubt, suffering through some rough times of which we are not even aware yet.

I pray we make it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've had the pleasure of sharing with many the delight I had staying with the kids. It's a mutual admiration society.

Your family is a model of involved, conscious family life. Yes, it will last and carry on into their adult lives. Will one or another have a detour? I don't think so, but if, by some small chance, that happens, their foundation is loving, caring, close. Their is a village of pray-ers, fans, lovers who will be there to see them through. What a shame there are not more families like this. We might have far less societal problems and much more cooperation and compassion.

(Wonder if we could go back and reparent/refamily the politicians.)