Our son turned eleven this week. I started blogging way back when he was only a twinkle in his Daddy’s eye, and now he’s grown up and eleven.
The boy I once wrote was “happiness just out and walking around” has become quieter and deeper. He’s become a lover of history and a voracious reader. He lives in a world which sometimes seems to have conspired to wipe the shiny happiness off of him, and somehow he has managed to hang onto his delight in other people, his gentle and generous heart, and an immense compassion. He is my child that the world has forgotten how to see.
On Tuesday, I asked him how he’d like to celebrate his birthday. In a perfect world where we could do anything, what would he want to do? I readied myself for another trip to the aviation museum or a flock of boys invading our house, but I was wrong.
“Can we just stay home?” He asked me. “Can we please just have a day where no one has to go anywhere or any chores to do? Can we just stay in our house and be in the same place together? Can it be just us and no one come over?”
And so we did.
We skipped gym classes and ballet lessons. I canceled my grocery store run and made do with what we had on hand. I parked the car in our driveway, and it didn’t move all day except to pick up his siblings from school. We had a day of stillness, and it was a gift to us all.
He spent a sizable chunk of the day in his room rereading the final Michael Vey book. I sent his sister upstairs to ask him what he wanted us to do while he read, and he sent back the reply, “Whatever you want. I just like knowing that you’re all here.”
It’s two days later, and I’m still thinking about his birthday, and how different his childhood is from my own. When I was a girl, the days stretched around me, unhurried and uncomplicated. I played sports and was involved in all kinds of activities, but they never seemed to consume my family’s life. Our home was was more than just the place where we changed clothes and shoes and eventually collapsed exhausted and wrung out into our beds. Our home was a place where we lived.
My children don’t have that life. We seem to be always on the run from one activity, practice, or class to another. It’s pretty rare for all of us to be home at the same time until it’s almost bedtime. It’s the way that most of us live these days, and I can’t help but feel that it’s wrong.
It shouldn’t be a treat to have a quiet day at home. It shouldn’t take a special occasion for family members who live together to be under the same roof at the same time. Somewhere along the way, our lives have spun out of our control in a blur of rush and busy-ness. And there is no time for quiet, or peace, or family. There is only the swirling undertow pulling us always faster.
My son gave me a gift on his birthday. He asked for his family, and showed me quite clearly that it had gotten lost along the path of obligations. I don’t know how we will remedy the mess we have allowed to grow, but I have a few ideas, and they all start with the word ‘No.’
Return to The Catholic Conspiracy