Monday, January 4, 2010

The Juxtaposition of Joy and Chaos

Posted by Terry McNichols

Our daughter and her two sons visited us in the weeks prior to Christmas while her husband was using the quiet to finish up the last required papers for his first quarter of graduate school.  We were thrilled to have them visit and set up the house for Christmas early.  Our house is just the right size for two of us, but whenever we add extra people, especially extra small and active people, we are well aware of the consequences of our downsizing choices. 

So here we were three adults, 3-year-old Caleb, and 9-month-old Sam.  We started out with high intentions of having a family party involving a ferry ride and a pizza dinner, as well as several other fun outings with local family members and friends.  What we failed to account for, however, was the normal run of events.  Sam especially had his body clock mixed up and didn’t get much sleep the first couple of days.  He also had his usual runny nose, probably due to teething this time around, although he is prone to colds!  The weather was clear and near freezing so we were busily mittening, hatting and coating little boys at every turn.  Toys made traversing the living space especially treacherous!  Food preparation, grocery runs, diaper changes, baths were needed, at every turn.  I sent my daughter out by herself whenever possible, knowing she wouldn’t have my help when she returned home.  We did manage to get out to a children’s museum, a trip up the Space “Noodle,” spent time with local sibling and family, and our daughter visited with several friends. 

With about 5 of the 9 days left, Caleb came down with something nasty and had diarrhea for a couple of days.   Then things got worse and I spent a long night with him vomiting.  We worked in shifts to just keep ahead of laundry and messes.   We limped through the last few days, cancelling our party and doing whatever we could to keep the kids happy and comfortable, hoping that no one else would come down with the bug before the flight home!

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, a friend said, “BUT, you are having FUN, aren’t you?”  Therein started my musing.  I wasn’t sure exactly that I would have called it “fun” at that particular moment, but there was profound joy in the midst of the chaos.  I often forget how much actual physical work is involved in the care and feeding of two small boys, how tiring and lonely childcare can be and came away with a renewed respect for the mother my daughter is becoming.  And I’m struck with a profound sadness that this small family lives far enough away that all of our encounters must necessarily consist of this strange juxtaposition of joy and chaos.  After they left, I spent hours looking for a picture I recalled.  Today I found it.  In the picture of me with my two little boys, I can still remember how I felt. 

We get older.  We start to remember our childrearing years with nostalgia and peace, forgetting the chaos part – only remembering the joy!  And that makes us less understanding of what these parents are going through.  We expect a lot from them.   I’m happy that I found the picture and can once again imagine myself surrounded by joy and chaos.


Bethany said...

You have hit the nail on the and chaos often do coexist!

Lindsay Colitses said...

Ahhh yes... Great post!
I smiled my way through the entire reading... thank you for sharing all that I have been feeling :-)

Sarah Tama said...

You really did nail it. Where are the tissues?

Anonymous said...

Trudy said...Oh, yes, I do remember. What I remember more clearly are my twin grandsons who are now 8 and the many times joy and chaos did and still does exist. I have the blessing of living close by so this happens quite often. Great post.

Janis said...

Nice Terry. I'm going to share it with Melissa. Can we ever relate!

Joshua McNichols said...

We try to keep things joyful, but it's very difficult sometimes. I sometimes wonder if it's just us who are chaotic, whereas the previous generation somehow managed to keep everything more calm. It's nice to hear I'm mistaken.