My youngest son is in first grade this year. The other day his teacher told me she had something she wanted to share with me. Immediately I thought, oh boy, let’s hope it’s not too embarrassing. He’s a good kid, but he’s 6 years old so you know how that can go. She went on to tell me that they had been discussing heroes in class that morning. She decided to go around the room and ask each child who their hero is. Many of the kids named their firefighter father, police mom, nurse mom, veteran grandpa, and even some superheroes. When she got to my son, she expected him to say my husband — after all, he is a firefighter. Instead he quickly replied, “My mom is my hero because she makes me feel safe and happy.” There I stood crying in front of my son’s teacher, not because it made me sad, but because my son expressed what I have always hoped my children know. At the end of every day, no matter how long or difficult the day was, I hope that my children feel loved. I hope they feel safe. And I most certainly hope they feel happy.
After all, that is what family is, right? Family is both our armor and our cocoon from the rest of the world. Family is never perfect. Not ever. Family is messy, but it’s a beautiful kind of mess. Family is a big old mess of a morning. It is a one kid can’t find a shoe, dad ran over the garbage pail on his rush off to work, the dog stepped in the only mud puddle in the yard, and the other kid let him back in the house kind of morning. Family is mom getting her kids onto the school bus and coming back into the house to cry into her coffee about the morning she wishes she could do over. Family is the kids running off the bus in the afternoon with big smiles and hugs as if the morning is but only a blip in time on their memory, because it is.
Family is the ups and the downs. Family is dedicated to celebrating the ups and finding our way out from the downs. Family is full of surprises. Some are good and some are not. Family is sitting in a waiting room for six hours while your husband undergoes open heart surgery and praying to God that if this all works out you will most certainly be a better person, because you just can’t even begin to imagine your life without that man. Family is holding the hand of your dying Grandmother because she has done it for you from the time you were a little girl in pigtails until the day you had your very own child. Family is jumping for joy when your sister tells you she’s having a baby. It is crying when you hold that baby for the first time because somewhere in your memory bank you remember the day your parents brought her home as if it was yesterday. Family is looking at your children and feeling ever so grateful for your own parents because you realize that without them you wouldn’t be the mom you are today.
Family is sitting around the dinner table and listening to two little boys talk and talk and talk. It is catching a glimpse of your husband and promising him with just a smile that you will catch up at some point. You will have time to talk to one another even if it’s as you start to fall asleep. It is listening to the stories that those little boys are telling you in the hopes that they will never stop talking to you. Family is a hug in the kitchen to remind you both how important you are to each other and that talking isn’t always necessary, it’s the listening that counts.
Family settles into the night with a story. It’s a tired mom trying to stay awake while her 6-year-old reads the book because he’s so very proud. It might take longer but she knows it’s worth it. It’s a dad stressed about his day at work tomorrow but hiding it so that his 9-year-old can tell him all about the game he played at recess. Family is those two tired parents making time for one glass of wine and a five-minute adult conversation. It’s a wife telling her husband not to stress and a husband telling her he’s sorry he has been so busy lately. Family is honest.
Family shows up even when you tell them not to. Family drops everything.
Family is all in. Always. With no questions asked. We figure it out together. We fight loud, but we love big. We get on each other’s nerves. We say sorry. We say I love you. We laugh. We cry. We celebrate. We grieve. We embrace the mess because somewhere within that mess lies the beauty of life. And at the end of the day, no matter how good or bad it was, we feel safe and happy because of the love of family. So jump in and embrace the beautiful mess. We will catch you if you fall.