Every 4th of July our neighborhood has a parade. It’s a small event, spearheaded by one family, that consists of maybe 40 people walking down the street behind a “Happy 4th of July!!!” banner, to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” playing on a boom box in one of the banner carriers’ hands. The parade takes about ten minutes, and then we settle in the neighbor’s lawn to eat red, white, and blue popsicles and chat.
Our four children, five years and under, love it. They have not been to a “real” parade before, so they are very easily impressed. And, really, they should be. This parade gets everyone in our block out of our houses and into conversation… even us, who are not nearly as neighborly as we should be.
The parade always gets me thinking about community and neighborhoods and my failings with regards to both. But this year I had a conversation that drove this home for me in a new way.
With four pre-school aged children, it’s rare that I leave the house without receiving at least one comment from someone about our family size. The comments are almost always some version of, “My, you sure have your hands full, don’t you?” or “You must be very busy!” I nod, smile, move on, have never thought much about these comments, and have certainly come to expect them. But this year I got a new one: “You have four children? You poor, poor woman!”
My friend Elizabeth makes me think.
I’m pretty sure all truly good friends make us think; the kind of thinking that results in spiritual encouragement. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote something simple to me in an e-mail that hit me right away as just the truth I needed to hear. She said that my kids, my family, they are the community I spend the most time with right now.
And there it was. Truth I needed to hear and reflect on.
My husband was away for five days playing drums at a worship event out of town and on the day I received that email from her, the kids and I were at the end of our second day of not leaving the house. Two days of being cooped up together with temperatures over 90 degrees so the kids couldn’t go out and play.
Preface to what I’m about to say: I love being a mom. My kids bring me joy and fulfillment beyond words. We are overall a happy and loving family. That said, at the end of the second day, I had a headache and my two-year old, who is at the brink of several big breakthroughs (potty training and expressing complex thoughts and such) was particularly cranky. You know how they’re always unusually cranky when they’re about to do something big but haven’t quite grasped it yet. I was down and out. I had all these plans when my husband left; all these things I was going to accomplish. When he got back our toddler would be potty trained, the kids and I would have done several adorable craft projects, gone to the jump house place, spent time with friends, gone swimming, the laundry room would be cleaned and organized, I would have a clear homeschool plan for the school year….. it went on.
I know. Why would a person set herself up for failure like this?