The Goobies are bugging me.
I know why: the four of us have been together constantly from the moment we left California–that’s a month and a half without much of a break. Moving to a new state compounded the normal stresses of summer, and here we are two weeks away from school starting and the day can’t get here fast enough because (confession): I’m a wreck.
So much togetherness became too much togetherness for my introverted self. Most days I want to hide away in the deepest corner of our closet, lock the door and never come out again, but dang it, I love those kids, so I greet each morning with a half-hearted smile, willing myself to give choosing what is better over what is easy my very best shot.
Last summer the days crept by, but this summer flew. It’s not exactly a good thing either, because even though I can’t wait for school to start, I am also dreading the fast and frenzied mornings that will quickly turn into late nights spent toting kids to and from soccer practice and helping them get their homework done, all while squeezing in dinner and keeping Emery busy and stimulated, and us connected to each other.
“It gets late quicker in Kansas, doesn’t it?” you asked me last week, when it was suddenly 9:30 pm and I was still folding laundry. I think we said said hello to each other when you got home from work that day, but that quick exchange of words and kisses may have been the only moment completely ours. Most conversations get hijacked by one Goobie or another, because they are just as cooped up as I am and they miss you all day too.
Two nights ago we tried really hard to slow down and recharge, so we tucked the Goobies into bed by 8:30, making sure the girls had books to read and water to sip, then tip toed out to the patio to sit side by side and actually talk to each other. It didn’t last long.
They came out to join us one by one: first Addie, having finished The Princess in Black quicker than we thought she would and not quite ready to succumb to sleep yet. We smiled politely and listened, and when we realized she just wanted to start the next book in the series before turning out her light, I took her by the hand and went upstairs with her, handed her the book, and whispered another goodnight before closing the door again.
Not long after that, out came Mia, who flashed us the smile that sets souls on fire and curled up in the rocking chair across from you, poised and ready to participate in grown up conversation. We indulged her for a few minutes (recognizing we don’t often get one-on-one time with her either) before giving her another round of hugs and kisses and walking her back to bed.
The quiet of the night returned, fireflies and lightning flashing bright in the star-studded sky. We talked about blue Wisteria trees and the allegorical quality of Frodo Baggins; the powerful testimony of the apostle Paul and the beauty and gravity of being made human, marveling at the idea that God sees something good in any of us. And then Addie opened the patio door a second time, eyes weary of reading but not heavy enough to close.
We feigned happy faces, frustrated as we were to be interrupted again. And yet, I opened my arms wide and she came running to me, latched onto me and held tight while you ducked into the kitchen for that box of Pfeffernusse cookies hiding at the top of the pantry. You broke open the box and silently handed one to Addie, who took the cookie with wide eyed wonder, thinking it must be too good to be true. She hesitated to taste it for only a moment until she saw the look on your face, the look that told her it was hers to enjoy. She eased her grip on me and snuggled close to you, listening to you talk about your grandma Adeline–our Addie’s namesake– and the way those spicy German cookies connect you to her memory. I think you hoped they would connect Addie to her memory, too.
We sat like that for a half an hour at least–or maybe more–who knows. Time slowed and we didn’t care what time it was. It was sort of a miracle. Addie’s head rested on your chest as she laid there watching the stars, needing nothing else in the world but you.
Sometimes we get focused on what we need and end up unwittingly dismissing the cues our kids send us about what they need. It’s not on purpose, and usually the things we need to keep us connected aren’t bad things on their own. We hadn’t sat down to speak to each other without one of the Goobies hanging around, interjecting their childish opinions and derailing our conversations, for weeks. And yet–clearly we haven’t made time to give the girls what they need either. How often do any of them get us, together, alone.
We don’t always choose what is better instead of what is easier–in this case, setting aside our own agenda for the sake of showing love to the kids–but that night, we did. Yes, we still need to make the time to talk to each other beyond a quick hello, but our small sacrifice of focusing on what Addie needed right then, in that moment, felt right. She didn’t need lectures about obedience or staying in bed or how our bodies will eventually fall asleep even though it’s hard–she needed us to let her hang out with us.
For as much as we tell her we love her, she needed us to show her our love by not saying anything at all. Spreading our arms wide and pulling her close; sharing cookies and watching a storm roll in; walking her back up to bed as the rain started to fall and singing one last lullaby before saying goodnight–the girl woke up happier than she has in weeks.
I woke up in better spirits too, I think. The Goobies didn’t seem so annoying yesterday, and somehow we managed to squeeze more good out of a single day than we had in quite some time, as if that small act of kindness empowered me to keep on giving them the love and attention they need.
Perhaps it motivated you too. You swooped in and saved the day again:after another tough day you ushered the Goobies out of my hair and into the pool for an hour before dinner. This was a win-win-win: not only did I get a little bit of much-needed time by myself, but it instantly made you a hero in their eyes too, and we all got to have a real dinner.
After an hour’s worth of playing hard in the pool, Addie walked into the kitchen and smiled wide, sighing as the aroma of her beloved Crispy Baked Tacos greeted her. (It’s one of her absolute favorites.) Digging leftovers out of the fridge and putting my feet up would have been easier, but this dinner was definitely better in so many ways, proving again that if better is harder? Still worth it.