My boys have not brushed their teeth in six days. How do I know, you ask? Well, their toothbrushes and toothpaste are separately sealed in reusable bags on the window seat in our bedroom since I unpacked six days ago. I’m tempted to let them go one more day at least, so they have the bragging rights of not brushing their teeth for a whole week.
Toys, clothes, boxes, and trash are haphazardly strewn about my eight-year-old’s room, while my eleven-year-old is collecting books, blankets, sweatshirts, and cups. Our living room contains piles of folded laundry, previously used towels, and family games while every throw pillow is randomly tossed throughout the room. My husband brought flowers home from a shopping adventure because I asked him to bring something bright and pretty to lighten up our days. A colorful bouquet is sitting in a glass measuring cup in the kitchen instead of one of the pretty vases located throughout our home.
Our dining room table holds a 499-piece puzzle that I finished yesterday. It was supposed to have 500 pieces, but, of course, one piece is missing. At different times, all four of us worked on the puzzle, and I discovered some truths about myself in the process: I like to find the corner pieces and perimeter of the puzzle before putting pieces together while other members of my family do not; I think that pieces should be separated and organized in piles outside the perimeter of the puzzle while other members of my family do not; I have some underlying puzzle control issues, and clearly other members of my family do not.
During one of our essential shopping trips to get groceries, I saw a ten-foot inflatable pool that we decided to purchase. While my husband and boys set up the pool, I sat on the deck under the shade of a large umbrella, attempting to write. Every few minutes, the computer was sprinkled with water from the hose filling up the pool. When I asked my son to make sure the computer didn’t get wet, he argued that he could not control the hose. I guess that makes sense when you place a hose in the pool and let it run free.
After filling up the swimming pool, one of my boys decided he had enough and went back inside while the other one stayed to enjoy the fruit of his labor. For the next hour, he stood on an inflated tube floating on top of the water, living his best life. Although disappointed that one of them chose to walk away from the fun, I was aware that both of them had chosen what they needed at the moment.
We are living in unprecedented times right now. Social media has a fascinating way of connecting us and of showing us all the ways that others are living through the coronavirus pandemic. In any given moment I can step out of my present reality and into someone else’s virtual reality, and more often than not, comparison ensues.
Life looks unimaginable for each and every one of us right now. What is unknown tends to increase anxiety for adults and children alike despite the unique ways we show it. One of the recurrent themes we talk about as a family is how we are not able to control or change others, but we do get to control how we respond to one another.
Just this past week, my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary, and for the majority of the morning, we could not stop arguing. When we were able to get a little space from the boys, we sat down to talk about our responses and triggers that had been present throughout the day. As we talked, we came to the realization that my husband manages stress by looking at the big picture while I manage my stress by living in the moment at hand. His desire for me to look at the larger picture and my need for him to be present with me in the moment created frustration until we talked about the primal ways that each of us were managing our life right now.
Learning to lean in to what feels best for our family at this time includes paying attention to whatever allows each of us the mental and emotional space to ride out this pandemic for an indefinite amount of time.
In some ways, we look similar to those around us and in other ways, we are doing things very differently. May we all feel the freedom to discover that which makes us feel peace, rest, joy, and hope in this time of uncertainty and loss.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.
Amen, Bethany! Thanks for drawing such a vivid picture. As the only Venusian in a family of Martians as well, I can relate to the picture you draw here! Wishing you all the blessings of introspection, flowers (even though you had to ask for them :)), puzzle anxiety, and the chaos of family life during unexpected quarantine! Xx
I actually had to laugh about this because I remember similar circumstances during hurricanes or events that took us out of reality for awhile. Smile and remember; however, get everyone a SonicCare it will save you thousands!~
Thank you for this…your puzzle paragraph especially made me smile. We have a 1000 piece puzzle sitting on our dining room table, but with only 996 pieces, because the dog ate four of them. And I had to defend my position on the importance of constructing the entire perimeter first more times than I would have liked. All while trying to keep my piles, organized by color, from being tossed about. Clearly I have puzzle issues too. But getting to share in this time, over a puzzle, with two teenagers and a 12-year old (who in more ordinary times would not consider puzzles with mom a desirable activity) is such a gift in the midst of all of the unknown. Really enjoyed reading your piece.
The very first line I knew it was you. You invite me with such honesty into a space where I feel safe to be real. And your images of family life are all too familiar. It is so true that each person is doing what makes them feel safe and it could look really wacky and different.
And by the way, we could puzzle together!