Over a month before his big 7th birthday and my son was already counting down the days on the calendar- jumping, big eyes wide with anticipation- antzy to his very core. “How many more days, Daddy? Can we wake up and spend the whole day as ‘the boys’? Can we go to the museum? Can we go to ice cream?” My husband is Mister Even Steven- steady under pressure, always- but I could see his face take on a strain as he asnswered that he wasn’t sure what the day would hold, but he knew it would be wonderful.
As Jones ran out of the room daydreaming, Josh turned to me with a straight face to let me know an unavoidable business trip was going to keep him away until the day after our little guy’s birthday. Heartbreak.
I wish I could say my intitial response was one of understanding, that I embraced my man and saw the ache it created in him. I wish I had acted wisely right out of the gate and been calm, loving…wifely. You can probably guess I didn’t go that route. My anger started bubbling right up to the surface, quick. Words flew like darts at this man I love. I questioned how he could let this happen, how we had become so wrapped up in New York that work trumped little boy birthdays… Was this what our family was headed towards more of? I got some good jabs in about priorities as tears began to flow and I huffed away, already embarrassed by my behavior. I just wanted out. Just get me out of this city, out of the busy, out of the traffic and this hectic pace that is eating away at my family.
Ideas of escape become my cozy friends when I feel I just can’t keep going, when my ideals don’t seem to fit into nice little boxes of birthday parties and family dinners and peaceful devotions and organic everything. I always want to run. No thought to where I might go, but just escape. Just ease. Just not something to work through. I’m thankful I have a husband who sticks with me through all my rough places, steady, seeking unity, seeking me. When I shuffled back toward him to ask for forgiveness, he welcomed me. He is a man of grace, far beyond what I deserve.
It seems there is a benefit to actually talking about things- Two heads really are better than one. We got creative. Out of the ashes, we crafted a plan that included a white lie and a little re-jiggering of the calendar. We decided to just wait and celebrate Jones’ birthday the day after, but because we tend to go big with birthdays around here, and to avoid crushing his tender dreams of a birthday spent with dad, we wouldn’t tell him ….The 11th would just become 10th. Ba dum bum. We joked that all of society’s fears of homeschoolers brainwashing their children were realized in our home as I lied about the date on the calendar for a solid week. I phoned grandparents and asked them to bump the date for breakfast shout outs and Birthday Song singing skype calls. I bribed the older girls with candy for helping to keep our secret. Only one of them called me out on being deceptive, which I considered a win.
I did spend a teeny bit of time feeling guilty before I realized how awesome this all was. The day went off without a hitch, we were together celebrating as a family, Jones spent his day just as he envisioned with his daddy, out on the town and feeling beyond loved on and I supported Josh in the process.
I snapped the picture above of Jones on his actual birthday and now its one of my favorites. He had just asked me how many hours until Daddy would arrive home and how many hours until he would be seven before walking me through his plans for the next day- he was so happy and so oblivious to the fact that he was already standing tall in seven year old skin. This picture was for me- my own momento of the day my boy started to stretch into being big.
I’m certainly not advocating that anyone lie to their children. I’m not even sure if its something I’m proud of or just really thankful that I got away with, but here’s the thing: I realized there will be many times that I will have to squeeze my ideals into reality, into my limitations. And every single time, I will be faced with the choice to do so with grace or in a huff, with creative saavy or growing bitterness.
We all have our own calendars to stretch and tender hearts to preserve. Somehow, someway, wherever we live, whatever the context of our families, each of us will be forced to adjust. We adjust mealtimes, schools, cities where we live, friends we link arms with-we bend our lives in ways that can make us dizzy so that it can all squeeze. We might not have it just as we please or envisioned, but we make it fit- like a birthday the day after, we work with what we have before us.
We can't escape this work if we seek to truly find our way. There have always and will always be spaces that bend to create the moments that truly matter, to craft the kinds of homes we want our children to be anchored in and that we ourselves want to return to each evening and put to bed each night.
So, what do you adjust to make life ‘work’ around your place? What do you give up or change to find a fit with your crew? What have you let go of or stretched until its felt worn out?