I have been on vacation for the last 3 weeks with my family in Europe. Sounds exotic, I know, but the reality is not so much exotic as it is a crash course in learning how to love. Life at home with four kids is an on the go experience with multiple personalities and conflicting needs- but I realize now, that our busy life style actually only allows us an hour or two per day to interact as a unit. These three weeks of 24/7 contact and all the compromising, giving in, giving up and staying put in the midst of it all has demanded a whole new level of sustainability. Throw in the differences in time, food and beds and truly it is a wonder that we are all still talking.
There are moments when I wonder if we even like each other as I sit enviously eying the Irish family who sit all huddled together speaking their sweet brogue with no conflicts between the three blue eyed children. All the kids sit rapt at their father’s stories about traveling. We have brief moments that look like this in the midst of the teasing and belittling that we live in the normative. I’ll tell you what- it gets old after an hour or two.
How many of the sit down conversations did we go through – insisting that we learn tolerance for each other’s differences and make space for what other people want. When I would get angry enough, they seemed to listen, and sometimes my fifteen year old could even hold his tongue, but the truces would have to be called over and over again. There is no getting there. Just staying involved and trying again is all the winning to be had.
The catch in all this is to not let it turn into a story that defines this time. This is the hardest part for me- the effort is sometimes so demanding that I want to make someone wrong, banish them or at least the possibility of ever trying a family vacation again. And then, of course it is my son, the provocateur excellent- who reminds us, “You know guys when we get home, we won’t remember any of these fights or hard times, we will only remember the good times. I guess that is how it is supposed to be…Huh?” Of course he is annoyingly right again.