The fact that today is the birthday of my third and youngest child who was not yet in the world until his sisters were five and seven, has me remembering back to the fun we had in the years raising our kids, and the sense of peace I still feel when I am among them… For In a family, you are known. You don’t have to pretend or explain. They take you as they find you – even if they do take frequent joy in mocking you
On certain nights, around the supper table, one of our kids would suddenly say, “OK, let’s switch roles. You be Mom, you be Dad,” etc. Then a fast improv would follow.
Once, I drew the then-13-year-old; swung my hair over one eye and said, “I need money, need a ride, I need money, I need a ride…”
This youngest, the then-five-year-old whose birthday it is today, once acted out his father for us in this game. He puffed out his tummy, lay down on the floor and began snoring with a newspaper over his face.
Our then ten-year-old then ‘did’ me. “Come to dinner, people!“, she shrieked. “Come eat your dinner before I throw it in the yard!”
It’s instructive to watch yourself thus parodied.
And there’s never a dull moment, just generally in a family, because in a family, everyone comes home with tales of pain and triumph – and with funny stories too.
That then-kindergartner, being new to the world, had the most stories: The story about the little girl in his class who squeezed her eyes shut and clasped her hands as if in prayer every day when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Or the tale of the older boy who told him he had his pants on backwards. “I can’t understand it,” I remember our little guy saying. ” I put them on this morning and they were frontwards! Sometimes I put one pair of underpants and find out later I have two pairs on. One day I put on a pair and looked later and they were gone!”
“You talk a lot,” one of his older sisters observed to him mildly, after ten straight minutes of this monologue.
“I can’t help it,” he said earnestly. “School is a strong thing.”
School sure is a strong thing. And work is a strong thing too. We all go out each day to face strong things.
I remember how the morning would come and one alarm after another would go off in this house. The sound of five showers would drum in the bathroom. Coffee would be gulped, cereal smeared and sprinkled around. Then there’d be a mad scramble to find shoes.
Now too there are those same scenarios in households the over world. Folks go out into their day and return for supper, glad to be back home.
Back in the years I am thinking of now, when the children were asleep at last, we two tired parents would make the rounds and collecting stray socks. We would kiss their sleeping faces and they smelled so good; like apples, and geraniums, and fresh-baked dough.
We knew that one day these children would be gone from us, and dinner would be a far quieter affair.
We were right there for sure.
But today, on the birthday of our youngest who is up in his 20s by now, I’m reminded again of how much their dad and I have loved them all; and how much they have made us smile.