Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day of rest?

For the past few Sundays, I've been working to honor the day as a day of rest and restoration. (My use of the word "working" in such a sentence is telling, is it not? I have to leave it there!) Today was no exception--we woke after a decent night's sleep (the kids had a much-wanted sleepover at Auntie's house), ate a leisurely breakfast (OK--we ate breakfast, even if not leisurely), taught Sunday School at church, and then took the new-to-us canoe we picked up last night out onto the river. I grumbled for a few minutes before settling into a comfortable position on my knees, and then felt suitably energized to paddle up, then down, then up river again on the meandering Farmington.

As we were nearing the close of our drift, we heard a family arguing anxiously on the other side of a tree lying across the river. The parents were in a double kayak, and each of their three children was in a single. A daughter was standing on-shore, a middle son was holding tightly to a rope swing from a neighboring tree trying to orchestrate the rescue, a younger son was tipping precariously as the current caught the side of his kayak, and the parents were hollering opposing instructions to all three of their children as the daughter's kayak slipped further under their boat and the water by the moment. Matt and I offered help, but served as little more than an audience to their eventual rescue of one another--and I suppose this was actually a meaningful purpose. When there are strangers watching, suddenly the arguing subsides and the productive problem-solving begins. Just a few moments later we were all on our way, Matt and I feeling gratitude once again that we had tried this first launch without the kids.

We met Auntie and the kids at a rendezvous halfway between her home and ours, and all lamented the Sunday New England traffic that awaited us. After a short bumper to bumper stretch, Matt and I opted for the road less traveled, choosing to take back roads and move rather than the main drag and sit. For a time, all was bliss--the kids watched the end of a movie on their DVD player, and Matt and I hummed along to the new Lori McKenna CD. The sun was a brilliant gold as it prepared to set, and we patted ourselves on the back for selecting the windy, scenic route. It was, for a time, a drive of rest to go along with my day of rest.

All holidays must end as we know, however, and the movie concluded, the windy road extended still further out in front of us, and the kids' lack of sleep at last night's slumber-free party caught up with them. When the kids weren't arguing with one another, they were wailing in their separate corners. Despite pulling over to take "the big" (as we call the big sister) for a walk, and soon thereafter purchasing both kids a bottle of water, they were not fit for road travel....and I suppose neither were we.

With only ten minutes remaining to our drive, my mother-in-law called. I can only imagine what we must have sounded or looked like for those minutes. In order to hear my mother-in-law I had my index finger jammed so hard into my non-phone ear that the nail left a mark still visible in the mirror. Matt was reaching through our seats, over the DVD player, to mediate between the kids while driving around a treacherously twisty road at dusk. The kids, in a word, were done. After withdrawing all privileges--return visits to Auntie's, evening storytime, tomorrow morning's television, eating, breathing or living under the same roof with us--we pulled into the driveway. Day of restlessness felt more apt to our experience than day of rest.

We were walking into the house when Kyra pulled out the words she hoped would wound. "You're not a good parent," she hissed at me as I fished through my purse for my keys. There were muttered words about not wanting to be or live here with us, and likely some laments about ever having to leave Auntie. If being human robs me of parental goodness, she's right. Whether caught up in a downed tree with the current flowing toward us or caught by Sunday evening traffic, the flaws of our families are sometimes too apparent....too visible for the seen and unseen audiences around us.

I suppose a day of rest is not about the usual "rules" I apply to it--no work, no computer (which leads invariably to work--I'm breaking this rule now!), no television. No distractions is really what I'm trying to achieve. Instead of focusing on those "no" qualities of such a day, however, maybe I should focus on the "yes." Yes to considering God and my family in a reflective, present manner. Yes to enjoying nature and a slower pace. Yes to accepting forgiveness--even for being a "bad parent"--and starting anew once again.

A faculty colleague said the other day, "It's never too late in the day to begin the day again." 9:36pm. I have some rest to attend to.


Sue said...

I wonder if we as parents of young children are all in the same boat (haha - pun quite intended and appropriate!) ... recognizing what our own needs are, yet trying to live out what our lives have become at the same time. Tricky waters. Oh, the metaphors! I don't know how many times a nicely planned day or event ends up just like your scenario -- with wails and arguments and just being "done." Chin up, my friend, for perhaps rest comes in snippets rather than a full day! :)

Carmen San Diego said...

I agree with Sue. I hope that for the future will bring only snippets instead of a whole days worth of events like this day.

Grampa Peter said...

I want to say that both you and Matt are caring, loving parents! As a minister, I can remember having very few 'days of rest' and the only way Mom and I had such was to go be together where no one knew where we were. Parents with small children need to locate an Auntie, or someone who can take the children, without them feeling guilty, and enjoy a canoe ride, or some time alone.. Since having the stroke almost a year ago...Most of my time is spent in resting...and reflecting. How blest am I...having such a loving family..a sunset IS a pause, at whatever hour, before the dawning of a new and glorious day..