For the past few months I’ve been telling myself some stories about my family. And unfortunately, a number of them have been negative and frankly untrue.
“Master 4 is just that way at the moment, it must be the testosterone…”
“That’s just Miss 7’s personality, it can’t be helped….”
“That’s just the way we parent, it’s all we have time for….”
“Maybe we’re not meant to have a smooth ride….”
“I can’t help it, I don’t know any other way right now…”
And so on.
It’s not great. It’s not cool. And I’m not really proud of it. But I’ve thought it, felt it and said it.
What happened on our recent family jaunt up the east coast was very interesting however; my thinking about my family shifted markedly. Master 4 isn’t THAT way, or any other way in fact – his behaviour was just that way in that moment. And Miss 7 isn’t this type or that type of kid, she just behaved that way as a result of the knowledge she had at that point in time and the triggers around her. We aren’t any type of people or family, we have simply been behaving a certain way as a response to the pressures, emotions, events around us. And over the last 6 days, we moved from behaving in a very particular way, to behaving in a vastly different way.
Days away from the home, properly disconnecting from work and renovations, and genuinely connecting with each other did amazing things for our behaviour and interactions with each other. And it didn’t take much to do it. In fact, there was no plan for it to happen, not even a conscious thought or hope that it might happen, but happen it did.
You see, we had a very busy year last year with a number of high stress points and challenges. We also had some amazing celebrations which I guess in many ways added to the rollercoaster of emotions. My husband (Simon) and I both spent a lot of time travelling, which in and of itself is not stressful (in fact we both love it), but the planning for it to occur with two children to look after, was. We also lost two dear pets rather suddenly, undertook a bunch of renovations on our home, and dealt with some rather ordinary family health issues. My business ramped up enormously which, whilst fabulous, meant I had to (and wanted to) find more hours in the week and therefore had to lean more heavily on my already slim support systems – something I’m not very good at doing (it’s in my 2016 plan to figure this bit out!). I also felt the pressure to be there for an increasingly demanding school and after-school activity regime and all that’s involved with that. My kids needed me more as their emotional requirements changed, and yet I felt less and less available. My parents also needed to lean on me more and yet I didn’t know how to make that work, given distance and time. My head was elsewhere and everywhere, trying to be everything and everyone. And Simon was the same. He was asked to lead a high profile and extensive project which would see his responsibility and time requirements increase, and along with it, his stress levels. He barely got home to see the kids before bed and was gone before they woke. “When’s daddy coming home?” was a nightly question to be faced with, and “I don’t know” was often the unsatisfactory answer. They needed him, and didn’t get him, so they needed me more. And I simply didn’t have the reserves.
And so our weekends were a blur of trips to Bunnings, maintaining the house/garden, running to activities, a hurried visit to friends, late night working sessions and too many wines (under the guise of having a life and enjoying ourselves!), all masked as ‘family time’. We were often tired and restless and resented the kid’s need to be with us constantly and got antsy about having no time to get anything done. And we spent too many moments saying “go and amuse yourself please, just for an hour or so,” and then got grumpy when the kids were fractious, fighting and hanging off our heels. No fricking wonder!
Craziness. And not at all the vision I had of my ideal life.
So it was a lovely surprise when driving home last night that Simon and I both reflected on the amazing change of behaviour our roadtrip had created in our family. We didn’t know it would happen, we didn’t do anything special. We didn’t even try. We simply relaxed and enjoyed each others’ company. Importantly, we were present.
Lucy learnt how to backflip in the pool and catch a wave on her boogieboard. Simon helped her and she beamed.
Ollie learnt how to catch a fish and play cricket on the beach. Simon helped him and he glowed.
We walked, we swam, we cooked, we rode, we found crabs and jellyfish and squid and stingrays. We lay still and watched the clouds. We talked, we shared, we read books, we watched ballet, and we moisturised each other’s warm skin. And it was heaven. It was how I remember it was when I was 7. THIS was my family. THIS is who we are.
They need us just to be present. They need us to connect deeply when we talk with them, to laugh loudly when we’re learning, to give all of our body when we’re playing.
We’re full to the brim of this goodness right now. I know it may not last as the school year starts, the workloads increase, and the challenges arise, but for right now it fills me up and I’ll hang on to it for as long as I can. What I do know though, is that we are not any particular type of people, we behave in certain ways at certain points in time, in response to events and people. My aim is to respond more regularly with presence.
And with presence comes more positive and powerful stories…..