There is something that is at once melancholic and invigorating about looking at photographs of your own memories. The month of March has been a long and arduous time for me, beginning with what should have been a grand celebration of my tenth wedding anniversary. Tenth!! That's a big deal! Or it should have been... instead we spent it babysitting for friends and having tea with door to door evangelists. Why not?
The next day, my Grandma fell. Another phone call I will never forget. "Don't panic, but..." and at first it really was a 'don't panic' situation. Grandma had fallen and hit her head quite badly, but she seemed ok. There was bleeding in her brain, but since she showed no signs of damage, we were calm enough. I met her at the hospital that evening, feeling as though I was overreacting and should maybe rather have stayed home with my family - my Uncles were with her, and she seemed fine. But she wasn't fine. By about midnight it was clear that her brain was being damaged and I recognized the signs I had seen over five years ago when my Dad's brain was bleeding.
She was not ok.
The significance of my relationship with her has struck me more and more as I watch my children grow, and go for advice and guidance to the person who saw me at the ages they are now - my Grandma. She was the 'mother' of my early life, and now that I have a three and five year old of my own, I understand a little better how much like a mother she must have felt towards me. I have already lost my Dad to a slow and painful brain-damaging illness, and I have been horrified at the possibility of losing another parental figure so soon.
I struggle to rationalize my feelings, because most people are not as close to their Grandparents as incidentally I became, and many people lose their Grandparents when they are my age or younger. So it feels like my excessive sadness about the situation is an overreaction that no one around me seems to understand. Even my husband has honestly admitted that he doesn't get it. I have decided, however, that it is better to be honest about my feelings - whether or not they are an 'overreaction' and admit them both to myself, and to others. It doesn't help me to pretend otherwise, and maybe sharing it will validate someone else's feelings about their own difficult circumstances. It's ok to be sad, and it's ok to feel deeply.
In the midst of this sadness, though, I have become a less attentive parent, and that is not ok. It's possible that at first my daughters acted as though nothing had changed - for the most part my day to day behavior is much the same as it was. I don't sit and cry constantly, and I 'keep going' but at a much slower pace, and when the inevitable feeling of falling behind hits - when the house hasn't been cleaned thoroughly in much too long and we haven't even mentioned 'school' in weeks - I become frustrated and irritable, and I am no more capable of picking up the pieces than I was before.
Then they began to change too, and maybe I didn't notice it at first, but all of a sudden I have two little girls who challenge me at every turn. Suddenly these two loving sisters who never fight are fighting at least every ten minutes. When I ask them to do something they either behave as though they haven't heard me at all, or they reply with some rude comment. I am left to wonder if in the past few weeks I have ignored this behavior - if I haven't noticed its beginning and now it is clear and undeniable. My girls are badly behaved.
It could be also that they are feeling cooped up. We are at the end of another winter, and everyone seems to feel a bit cabin-fevered at this point every year and it is time to get outside for more than just a few minutes here and there. We need to see the sun!
So on Easter weekend, when some friends came in from out of town to visit, we headed to the nearby zoo to see what we could see at this time of year. Often the animals are much more active in the early spring and late fall, and this trip was not a disappointment.
The girls were active and a bit over-rambunctious as they have been these days, but it was so good for all of us to be in a space that could handle their crazy.
I just had to throw this next photo in because I love it. Something about having daughters seems to transform a man... in case you can't tell, he is painting their nails.
I did something completely unnecessary and baked three loaves of this easter bread. It wasn't exactly like the bread I had grown up having occasionally, but it was my first attempt at 'easter' baking, and it was nice to give it a try. Our culture is shading away from the time when women had baking in the oven at least weekly, but sometimes I like to pretend our world is a bit more old fashioned.
In addition to her attitude suddenly springing up into teenage-hood, Clara has made a few sudden changes in her life in the past few weeks. One of them is colouring. She used to hate it, or at least she seemed to hate it. She never asked to colour, and when she did colour she would scribble with one colour all over the page with no regard for where the lines were and would quickly decide to be done. Occasionally, when I would ask her to try to colour 'in the lines' mostly just to determine whether she was dexterous enough to do it, she would make a half-hearted attempt and then announce that it was 'too hard'.
Then, all of a sudden last week she began to colour in the lines. Now she asks to colour multiple times each day and consistently colours appropriate colours inside the lines. She also decided within the last week that she suddenly liked eggs - and she's eating them too, it's not just all talk.
And finally, after at least a year of being able to sound out each letter sound - and even occasionally reading words when she thought we weren't paying attention - Clara decided she wanted to know how to read. Now she picks books out of the library and reads them herself.
I would love for this post have been about how I have conquered the challenge of parenting during hardship, but unfortunately I haven't. This post is just simply an honest reflection of what is happening in our world these days and how I am feeling about it. Completely inadequate and too tired to really make a difference, but we hold on anyway.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-3
Even in the sadness and struggle, there is joy.