All My People Are Here- Seasons and Stability
Roosevelt was a very cool dude. He’s the one who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Well, him or author Dwight Edwards, apparently, and Google doesn’t know who really, or in what context, so that’s why this is not an educational blog, lol. Anyway, the truth of it has rung very true in my own life. I’m not just talking about comparing my legs to her legs, like physical stuff (you can read more about these and other amazing comparisons in Skin Deep), but I’ve realised that recently, it’s running much deeper.
Firstly, Roosevelt needs a quick case study. I’ve put his picture here so you can get the picture of Robin Williams from “Night At the Museum” out of your head. Teddy was the US 26th president, and said a lot of cool stuff, totally relatable:
“I have always been fond of the West African proverb “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Hey, why is this not the first chapter of every parenting how-to book??
“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.” Yes. We’re doing stuff!
“It is no use to preach to [children] if you do not act decently yourself.” Again, I say parenting how-to books!
“I never keep boys waiting. It’s a hard trial for a boy to wait.” Aaahh, yes, the mother of boys nods her head.
Thank you, Theodore. The thing about comparison being the thief of joy, it’s true, and we know it, all of us, because we all look at others all day on Facebook or Instagram, or across the road at their new car, and the misery that sometimes follows with assessing ourselves as ‘lesser.’
But seasons of life are what I find myself comparing recently. The family stages, the memories of certain times. I was thinking about Ethan’s birthday that was coming up, and how the birthday celebrations change when they hit the teenage years (less balloons, ice cream and jumping castles, more gadgets, clothing and dinners) and I realised that Joshua wouldn’t be home on Ethan’s birthday. It’s just weird getting used to these routine events and traditions, but without the usual sameness.
Also, I have realised that my lifelong dream of taking the boys to Disneyworld on a family trip is not actually going to materialise. It’s a dream I’ve held onto with all my might, but they just kept getting older, and Joshua turns 21 this year, so I’m reluctantly having to let it go, as “everyone-is-here” family holidays become a real miracle once they reach adulthood. Ugh.
I was also thinking about a Zim friend whose first-born daughter began studying at UCT this year; quite an adjustment for all of them. She recently went home to Zim for a visit, the first time since leaving. I kept thinking of the mom, relishing her daughter’s company and enjoying seeing all the things in her beloved offspring that you don’t normally see when you’re with them every day: the new slang they’ve picked up from others, the habits they’ve developed without your nagging, the responsibility they’ve shown in all they’ve accomplished away from you. Yet I know the whole time they’re together, the mom is bittersweetly thinking about that thing… that they leave again. And then you’re still taking out the extra plate at dinner time, and worrying about them not being homesick all over again, and dealing with that separation suckiness.
Sometimes as moms we’re wishing for them to be little again (but not really, because poop and sleep) and there’s this whole struggle in our emotions with feeling old, like we haven’t made the most of our time, that we forget to flippin’ enjoy the season… and that’s the thing! The comparison that steals the joy of now is the comparison between the seasons. Now, this season we’re in NOW, it’s different, and it’s hard not to begrudge different because there’s a comfort- and stability- in the familiar. Oh, I wish they were all in their baby/toddler years again, because… (fill in the blank here: they were so cute, they loved to cuddle, no adolescent sass or teenager angst, etc) but heck no, I was a sleepless wreck at that time, and although I’d love to do it all again to try and… (fill in the blank here: read to them more, play classical music to my pregnant belly more, don’t start with rice cereal, start with veggies, don’t buy that awful walking ring, don’t carry the toddlers all on the same damn left hip, don’t stress over sleep/poop…) I think I need to start living with less regret and more, “Oh my word, this moment right here is so awesome.”
I’m trying very hard NOT to sound like my gran who, whenever we went to her house for a family lunch, would say repeatedly, “I’m so glad we’re all together,” and we would all roll our eyes at her, because we were really only there for the free Quality Street sweets generously distributed in glass bowls throughout the lounge, and those dang crispy roast potatoes which took her an hour of heavy duty stove-top time to cook. But looking back, I have very fond memories of those times. And I’m finding the same thing with the boys now… they keep reliving the memories of past seasons- good, bad, funny, sad, traumatic, exhilarating… the whole spectrum. There’s a strong family identity that comes with strong memories. Photographs, home videos, journals and re-telling the events in family conversation have been invaluable to making us feel glad to be together.
Heath and I often make eye contact in the moments of craziness when we’re all together, and sigh, and knowingly say, “All our people are here.” That’s when all the ones leaving come home, all the teenagers have returned from their mall hangouts, and there is a feeling of completeness. The inside jokes flow, food is consumed at astronomical levels, and we all scream at the rugby together. But dang it, whilst I LOVE it when we’re all together, I am trying to relish the moments as they come, along with the changes as they inevitably shake my world. There must still be contentment, even knowing that they will leave again, and that the next season will come along, with it’s own changes, and new joys. My stability should not come from the familiarity of a season, but rather from the author of each season. What a comfort that is.
May the lessons learned in the chaos or the quiet lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Late edit: I have manipulated Ethan’s birthday situation quite nicely by announcing that birthdays will now be a week-long celebration. Little gifts/treats each day throughout the week, outings, play dates, a movie, etc. This greatly relieves the stress on the Birthday Mother, as getting all gifts wrapped, ribs cooked [Ethan’s favourite], cake baked and people to behave on one day is quite a big ask.
So the whole week was amazing, and Joshua was home later in the week to participate. I, for one, always hate that anticlimatic “Day After” where you wake up after your birthday, and it’s like, “Hey, where’d everybody go? That’s IT?! A whole year of survival, and life, and keeping my head up, and I get ONE DAY?” Hmm, if I’m not careful, this may mutate into a Birthday Month tradition. Anyway, we had t i m e to celebrate Ethan, time to be grateful. And the rule was that his brothers weren’t allowed to beat him up at all the whole week. Great self-control and restraint was exercised in honour of the new teenager in the house!