A few posts ago, I wrote about our family’s gathering to celebrate four birthdays: my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my mom, and my daughter. In our house, we would be hosting both sets of our parents, V.’s sister, her husband, their baby, and their dog. We are blessed to have room to spread out to play and visit when we are inside, and we thankfully all love being together, especially for such happy occasions. Some things went just as planned, some things didn’t, but as always I’m left with extra gratitude to each family member as I consider how it all went.
Backtrack to the day prior to our celebration. L. was off from school because of teacher conferences, so the two kids and I went to the store. Getting L. out of the house for any reason, including ice cream or some other treat, can be tricky. Having him be helpful and happy for the duration of the grocery trip was enough of a reason for me to say “yes” to his choice of Christmas-themed paper plates. Moms have to choose battles wisely, yes? That afternoon, when most of the cleaning had been done, A. was taking her nap, and L. and I were playing a ruthless game of Monopoly City, I started noticing sniffles. First it was just L. Then I joined in. Amidst handfuls of tissues, we both prayed it was allergies. L. had just gotten sick with rotavirus the previous week, so surely we were going to be healthy for a while, right? So what that it had been two months since his last bout with strep throat–surely he was finally getting a stronger immune system, right? We both went to bed with stuffy noses and more fatigue than normal, but still we hung on to the probability of bad allergies.
Do you ever have a weekend when everything seems to happen at once and you have to pick very carefully to whom and what you say “yes” or “no”? That was our weekend. We had to say “no” to a fire safety event in our neighborhood, which I know both our kids would have enjoyed. We had to say “no” to a friend’s invitation to celebrate her birthday after the kids had gone to bed. V. could not say “no”, though, to a professional conference being held half an hour away. He did his very best to attend the dinners, meetings, and lectures, while also doing his very best to be here to sing Happy Birthday, watch everyone open gifts, and visit with our families. As always, he balanced it all beautifully with no complaints.
By the morning of our celebration, I kept having to remind myself that while a clean house is a lovely thing, our families were coming to be with us, and not to inspect our counters or floors. I think I was making the kids a bit frazzled when I kept finding things that “had” to be done before our guests arrived. “Just a minute…just a minute…” After too many minutes, the counter gleamed, the stairs were clear of books and papers and clean laundry, and the kids and I breathed (V. had already left for the start of his conference). Some dear neighbors came over to play and give A. a fun birthday gift and sweet hand-drawn cards. All of our family guests arrived shortly as well, and suddenly the house was full and buzzing! I would have been content in the happiness of the moment, except for the allergies that were feeling less allergy-based and more germ-based. I tried to keep my distance from everyone, while huddling by the tissue box. I can’t say that is what I had in mind for the day!
I resigned myself to actually being sick by midday, and I humbly asked for help in getting all the food for lunch out and arranged. By the end of the day, my mom and V.’s mom had done a few rounds of setting tables, serving food, and doing dishes. I can’t say that is what I had in mind for two of the guests of honor! I was feeling worse by the minute, when a golden opportunity arose: everyone scattered in different directions, even the kids, and I was left alone in the loft. I grabbed a cozy blanket and took a very refreshing and healing nap on the futon, in a completely quiet and still house. My brother-in-law and V. had taken L. to a Bass Pro Shop store to look at fishing supplies. The grandparents and my sister-in-law played outside with A. and my little niece. I found out later that my mom even got A. to lay down for a nap with her, on my bed! None of this was what I had in mind for the afternoon, but how could I argue with so much fun and happiness (and solo napping)?
What I had in mind for the whole day was to give special attention to the birthday honorees, so it was particularly hard to sit back and sniffle while my mom and dad and V.’s mom and dad did so much to help. What a great, great blessing it is, though, to know that this is just how they are. We didn’t need to ask, they were just aware and ready to help cheerfully. V. and I are overwhelmed by the ways and degrees in which our parents express their love to us, and we pray not only that we can bless them in return, but that we can be those kinds of parents to our children as well. Love that responds and gives of itself is the greatest legacy one could hope to pass on!