It is standard dinner conversation: “Tell me about your day, Daddy?” the Eldest asks, in between bites of burrito and giggles of nonsense. The interruptions, routine: the Littlest spurting protest cries, demands to be picked up. The dance-call, familiar: I’ll hold the Littlest while Mark eats a few bites, then pass him over the table to into Mark’s grasp, taking turns holding this family together, and dishing out seconds.
It is this common family life that is now settling back in our house. Mark has finished the work project that had him tied up with night shift. Now I eagerly peck him on the lips, barely awake to wish him well as he heads out the door to work at 5:30am. This is familiar to me: knowing that he will be at our table for dinner. The Little Ones run down the front steps to greet him in the driveway when he comes home, still covered in the day’s dust. They, too, are thankful for his presence at the table. They rejoice in their father’s hands tucking them in to bed at night. I take comfort in him by my side when I’m turning lights off, locking doors for the night. I sleep easier when he is the last thing I see before I close my eyes.
We are now in transition, though. When Mark was gone, I couldn’t rely on our old rhythms to get us from one shore to the next. The benchmarks of how to mark time no longer made sense. We needed new structure: the day was divided off differently, now. New routines were created, new rhythms established. And I built a fortress: a tower to protect myself. Brick by brick, slowly, daily, I stood these supports together to steady myself in the darkness of parenting alone. Mark is back now, and I have a partner again, but I find myself stuck, still alone in this fortress that I made. I didn’t have an exit strategy in mind. Now we’re doing the hard work, together, of knocking down this tower. We’re reconstructing our home.
These past two months of upended family life have pushed me to my edge, and at moments passed it. I did what was necessary to keep our family going, not always with grace or finesse, not always thriving. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We want more than survival — we’re made for Life, Abundant. And it’s not enough to hold my breath, wait until this one stress-test-of-life passes, because there’s is always another. I’m beginning to understand more what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Tonight, it’s bath night. We’ll have dinner together. I’ll try to hear about Mark’s day, in fragments. The Little Ones and I will tell him about ours. We’ll set the table together, fold laundry together. We’ll hand Little Ones around, corralling and cajoling; admonishing and teaching; praising and encouraging. Together, we’ll take down my fortress, fight through the hard conversations, step on each other’s toes more than we care to. Together, we’ll hammer these new beams into place, build new rooms, with windows for the view. Together, we’ll remember what makes this our home.