The kids have been out of school the past few days and it’s been a trying time around these parts to say the least. It began well. My wife took the first day off to hang out with the girls while I worked. She ran errands in the morning with them, so as you can imagine that bordered on the brink of a nightmare (you try getting 4 kids to sit still in an orthodontist’s office…I dare you!). But then, she had a surprise planned mid day: a tea party with a special guest friend. They dressed up in pretty dresses, set up the fancy china, and had themselves a blast. I was in and out of my home office that day so I was able to catch a little bit of the excitement as they bounced around the house for hours (probably a result of the sugar rush no doubt). Since I had a late evening meeting, my wife was on kid duty for the rest of the day as well, responsible for dinner and bedtime.
By the time I’d arrived home and gotten off my last call it was nearly 9pm, but the party was just beginning. The next day we traveled to South Carolina to spend time with my parents, grandmother, sister, and attempted to see some of my other extended relatives. It was an ambitious plan to see so many people in a one day trip, but we’re the Wakefields! Ambitious is what we do right?
You may not be surprised to learn that we missed our 8AM departure time by nearly two hours. By the time we’d gotten on the road, I was annoyed, the kids were annoying, and well Samantha was simply trying to keep the peace. Traveling with young kids is always a risk, but we’re well practiced in this area. The key is to try and be prepared for anything and everything. I pack extra clothes, extra batteries (for all the devices), extra road trip snacks. Usually though the thing I most need to pack is extra patience.
We ended up having a pretty impressive trip, and I use the word impressive to mean we actually got to see most of my family and there were fewer than two meltdowns (adults included). We even were able to navigate the tricky dynamics of seeing both sides of the family together at one of the stops (bonus points since that’s a rare feat!). Still, when we headed back on the road at 7pm, it was dark and everyone was tired, myself included. Half way through the two hour road trip I had a van full of sleeping girls.
Getting in late Friday night, I knew that the only thing I wanted to do all day Saturday was relax. Yet, somehow it didn’t pan out that way. Sure, we stayed home and I got to lay around in my pajamas watching football most of the day. But it felt as stressful, if not more so than a regular day. I think it was because in my mind, I kept thinking about all of the things on my running to do list, none of which I got to do that day because I constantly found myself cleaning up after children. So I spent a lot of time making lists in my mind that ultimately I didn’t complete anything on, which made me even more stressed. To borrow a phrase from an author, I fake rested instead of real-rested, and then I found I was real-tired.
Turns out that made two of us. As Samantha and I crashed into bed last night we both talked for hours about how we felt soul tired, and not the good kind. I’m talking about the I’m too busy to taste the goodness of my life kind of tired. My wife is the person who gives and gives emotionally, she carries the emotional weight of parenting in our household. So for her, the past few days with the kids had been emotionally draining. She needed some space. Meanwhile, my drug of choice is productivity. I like to get things done, and here I am staring at a weekend where no priorities have been set, no budgets made, no calendars aligned…it’s stressful to say the least for me.
But here’s also what we discovered as we laughed and cried our way to a few realizations together last night: that talk was everything. It gave us both life, and a reminder of why we’re together. We weren’t looking to solve each other’s problems by any stretch of the imagination, but it just felt good to be able to commiserate, to have someone to say, me too! Sometimes it’s just good to know you’re in the foxhole with a great partner. Oftentimes it’s the meta conversation you have about parenting that provides the margin you need to exhale and move forward to face another day.