The feeling was mutual.
The kids were agonizing over missing their friends, structure, rollerblading countless times around campus.
My husband and I had run out of energy.
We were so over summer.
The mornings had gone from “Lets ‘up and at ‘em!’ and go on our adventurous hike around the wilderness of the lands amongst the Texas hill country” to “You know where the cereal is. Please don’t fill your sister’s bowl up too much with milk or it’ll spill all over the couch. Yes you can watch a 3rd cartoon.”
So when I squeezed their freshly haircut noggins to my chest and kissed their sleepy cheeks goodbye on the first day of school, I relished in the quiet that filled the house. I missed them, but as my grandmother would say, “it was a good ‘ole miss.”
This time last year, my family was recovering from my dad’s death from cancer. He had been a powerful presence in our life. A spiritual mentor, a world traveler, a coffee fanatic. As much of a father to me, as he was to my husband. And as grieving can do, my husband and I forgot who we were . Our marriage entered a desert place that it hadn’t been before. Our future was unknown.
School was already in session and we were simply surviving. The kids were resilient and busy, while my husband and I tried to keep the life they were experiencing as normal as possible, while seeking counsel from wise mentors and friends.
The time came for the first Acton Academy parent meeting of the year. Before we closed the meeting, Jeff challenged us to work on a Family Badge Plan. This consisted of putting together a motto for our family; discuss ways each of us wants to grow individually and collectively; what did we believe in; what did we enjoy doing together. After we completed it, we were to send it in and begin the year a stronger family unit.
Dread washed me. I looked at my husband and his eyes looked back at me with the same sense of defeat that we were already feeling.
Questions flooded out of my mouth in the parking lot where my husband and I stood. How much of our struggle should we share with the kids? What does a family unit look like if parts feel unsalvageable? Where will the energy come from to work on our marriage while holding our kids accountable.
My husband was calm and responded, “We will lean into it. And see what happens.”
The night came. We ripped off massive sheets of white paper from a post-it note for giants. Our middle child gathered colorful sharpies, taking off every cap, ready. The kids were bathed and eager eyed. Ready to dive into our first project for the school year. They were full of life, hope, expectation, readiness.
The oldest, a 2nd year at the time, began the conversation.
“I love to rebuild things. Like legos and toys.”
The middle child threw his pointer finger up and said,
“I love to draw with paint and make messes because God is okay with my messes.”
The baby of the family screams out, “I love our family!”
Ill never forget the look in my husbands eyes as he looked at me quietly, but saying with strength and assurance, ‘We will be okay’.
That night was divinely orchestrated. That night began the trajectory for a home filled with grace. A home filled with second chances and giggles. A home that smells of lavender and peppermint. A home where you are free to fail because each of us will surround you and say, “we’re here and we love you”.
Sitting down and making that Family Badge Plan gave my husband and me a life line for the future at hand. It was the oasis we needed in the desert we were walking in.
Being in the Acton community is much more than the stellar ways of learning that our kids experience. Its more than the talented guides that lead our kids in love and patience on the daily. Its more than the nurturing care of Jeff and Laura.
Its a deep conviction. A way of life that my family is choosing to walk each day. A reminder to us, as the parents, that we are on a hero’s journey ourselves. That who we choose to surround ourselves with, what we fill our time with, affects not just us, but the trajectory of our family. Sometimes it will waver, but if we can sit down and make a plan as a family, we’ll always have something to reorient ourselves back to, in grace and in love.
So as we begin this school year and you find yourself in heartache, in joy, in transition, I see you. You aren’t alone.
You are home.
[Thank you, Elena, for being a contributor to my blog, my life and to the Acton community at large.]