When the sun started to come up this morning, I knew it was time.
I wanted to stay there, where my covers are cozy and my pillow soft, there where I don’t have to wear bionic ears and the silence wraps me like a homemade quilt, there where Nathan’s feet are warm and tangled with mine.
But this is mortality, and I am called to the trenches.
I knew that I must go out there and like the morning sun, wage a ware against darkness – without engaging in battle with the children themselves.
Half of them will be worse today, because they are the ones who feel safe by limits being enforced.
The other half will be grossly overly compliant and declare their love in words and pictures and little gifts, because that’s how the domestic violence works in the families from which they came.
That’s what I was guessing as I awoke this morning, but what I knew was that all of them needed to feel that everything is okay.
All of them needed to know that no matter what they chose yesterday, or what consequences continue from choices they cannot undo, today is still a new day.
The kind of day we had yesterday called for the highest priorities of interventions: snuggle time individually for everybody, no matter how many children there are running around out there.
That’s the only way to be on the offensive, to be proactive about protecting the children on emotionally difficult days after hard behavior kinds of days.
As the day began with the chaos of six sets of routines for exercises and tooth brushing and showers and getting dressed and scripture studies and individual prayers and assigning homework pages, Nathan stole one child away at a time. He brought them into our room, away from the chaos, for morning cuddles that turn into tickles and planning your day chats that turn into modeling healthy emotional expression, mirroring, and reflective listening. I did the same thing after breakfast and morning chores and music lessons, pulling them into a big chair to snuggle with me and tickle and whisper and laugh and chat, one at a time. Then we did it again, after lunch, letting everything else go and curling up together with blankets and bean bags as I read the first four chapters of The Mouse and the Motorcycle to them out loud.
That’s one of my favorite things about homeschool, that even though I work the evening shift and often miss their bedtime, I get to snuggle with them every afternoon and still read them bedtime stories.
Then usually before I go to work, we sort out into different projects and chores, but today was not the kind of day to pile on demands or enforce expectations.
So I got out the play dough, and all the toys, and played the vinyl record of Music Man while they cut and squashed and rolled and created and shaped one thing after another, each of them together with the others but also in their own world, an illusion of space, a promise of safety, and the experience of playing well together.
Today was the kind of day for healing, and resting, and recovering, just as we would on a rainy day, or just as we would after a sick day. It was a hard week, a really hard week. But we pulled through, and we regrouped, and everyone just needed to be successful today. They needed confidence and bonding, the experience of enduring through something hard but being strengthened by it on the other side. They needed comfort. They needed a win.
That’s what we did today.
We made sure breakfast was huge, lunch was early, and dinner was a favorite.
They just needed to have a good day, each of them, and together remember that they could.
Maybe we needed that, too, as parents, to remember that we are doing our best and that’s enough.
Because hard days are hard, and rough seasons are rough, and all of it is exhausting – even on the good days.
Maybe especially on the good days.
It’s a lot easier to just give up, to just be punitive, to just not even try, than it is to work that hard at doing it well. It means thinking about them instead of yourself, and it means thinking about each of them individually rather than treating them like cattle as a group, and it means sacrificing your own down time and interests and very-important-work so as to be present and available enough that they legitimately feel you being attentive enough to actually be nurturing.
Nathan’s last minute edits for this weekend’s opera in New York may have been a whole day late, and I may have three books in production just waiting for approval for distribution, and maybe it took me all this time to follow-up on our appeal about Kyrie’s oxygen and my cochlear implant upgrade, but by golly, the children went to bed happy as can be, after a beautiful day of excellent behavior and positive interactions all around.
You know, just this once.
So I had to document it. Because it might not happen again.
But today? Good job, Christensens. We made it one more day.