After my three week journey away from my family for school (my longest trip away), I am now immersed back into the lovely and frustrating disorder of life at home. John is now away on a business trip, so I've been caring for the kids solo (and wondering regularly how exactly he survived the three weeks with his sanity intact). I've scheduled an array of activities each day, each with varying levels of success, and most of the day's activities are completed by noon, opening up the afternoon to boredom (them), impatience (me), and misbehaving (us). One day, I tried to eat up some time and fulfill obligations by taking the kids to visit my family. We managed three hours of driving for a two hour visit that ended in tears and screaming by at least four out of the five of us. I spent the drive home going through my family systems learning over the past few weeks, which was all well and good in the relative peace of kids shamed into quiet in the backseat, but lost its practicality upon the return home when anger and rudeness reigned again, awakened by the demons of hunger, hurt, and fatigue. It's no surprise to me that we default to our family of origin strategies when we are stressed, and there's nothing like returning home to up my anxiety levels.
But then I checked my phone and I had the sweetest voicemail from my almost 92-year-old grandmother, making sure we got home okay. She said that I looked tired, and though things hadn't ended well, she so enjoyed our visit. Then she said that I was doing such a good job as a parent. That is perhaps one of the kindest thing she has ever said as she was certainly seeing through the eyes of love. I feel that I did nothing to demonstrate effective parenting. My kids were rude and out of control, and nothing I did seem to matter, other than making me lose my cool. I called her back to let her know we were okay, and we talked a while longer about random things--the declining state of the world, how much the kids have grown. And then she said that it's so hard to be a parent and she prays for us every day. Perhaps it was the family systems talking, but I heard some of her own grief in that and so much empathy and understanding. It opened me up in a way that is pretty amazing considering the walls I've built up over the years. And somehow, when someone later remarked to me that I should cherish these days when my kids are little because they grow up so fast, I was able to smile for a change and believe that maybe this day is an unexpected gift.