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[Quiet Thoughts] Trust the Village

2 weeks ago

1567 words

Photo: It’s pretty, sure. Yes, I said I’d spend my winter looking for the beauty and sincerely appreciating it. But this is a different sort of snow. Note the broken tree limbs. There is a dent in my precious Blackmobile thanks to a fallen limb! Well over 40% of our town lost power due to the storm (we were lucky to keep our power the whole time). So yes, pretty, but with scary, scary undertones.


The boys came home early on Wednesday because of the storm. Then, of course, they were out of school yesterday. Me and the other moms in my life texted throughout the day with various complaints or hilarious victories. We watched the news, watched the trees, prayed on the power… and we got to late afternoon, which featured blue skies and sun, and we all got to wondering: are kids going to school tomorrow? They’d better go to school tomorrow!

Around 6, I got a flood of texts from the town next door. “What do you even mean there is no school tomorrow?” was the collective howl from my mom friends over there. I was really surprised! I told my husband, “I guess the precious Land Rovers can’t make it over the twigs left in the road!” We cackled and I served dinner. Surely my more sensible town would be opening schools.

6:30, we got The Call. I joined the chorus of mommy lamentation.

“What would your mom have done? She would have just stayed home, right?” The Husband asked. His mom was stay-at-home, but my mom, who was single for the majority of my childhood, worked for local news.

“Nope. She had to go in. Especially for the snow storms.”

I recounted the au pair, the uncle who stayed for a summer, the sorta-cousin who helped out for half a summer, the grandmas to came for a week at a time sometimes… Mom put together a team of people who came to help take care of me and my sister when she needed it. She made a village. Sometimes she hired a village, but most of the time, she just leaned on the people she needed to when she needed to. When we were old enough to be home after-school or on summer days, it took a burden off of her for sure. I couldn’t understand the full magnitude of the village aspect of parenting until I became a mother and quickly realized that my village is very, very far away.

The thing that really sucks about these snow days is that it really screwed up the division of labor around here. My husband got to stay home all day in his pajamas, have a big hot breakfast, enjoy the quiet intimacy of his office, and he got to be Doctor The Husband doing Big Important Work without any of the guilt of “missing precious time with the children.” He enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, three excellent meals (I made onion soup and beef burgundy yesterday), and the comfort of being home.

Snow days mean I have all the responsibilities of both of my jobs and the added delight of feeling guilty about not doing either adequately. I got little intellectual stimulation because I was distracted by the minutia of motherhood, and I felt less than adequate in my mothering because I was so concerned about my two looming deadlines. I kept telling myself, as I bounced between both my roles (and increasingly resented my husband, who blissfully worked and listened to choral music at the top of the stairs),  “I’ll make up for it tomorrow. They’ll be out of here tomorrow.” I was a sucker for sure.

Today, The Husband danced out of this house and headed into town. The boys got up at 7:30, giving me little time to drink my coffee, let alone settle into some work. They started messing with our Amazon Echo and got Alexa to start telling knock-knock jokes. 20 minutes of knock-knock jokes. Then I finally got them to play in the playroom, where they proceeded to get into fights about legos. I shook my head and fought off the urge to smash stuff.

I wrote a snarky tweet, sent a few snarky texts. It only made me feel a little better. But then I got into an exchange with a friend, who made an offer to take the boys for a while.

I immediately felt guilty.

“No, no. No need to do all that,” I said. No reason to burden another woman with my responsibilities. And the boys have been so bonkers these last few days, could I trust them to behave?

Next thing I knew, there was a phone call, a few direct questions, a sincere offer. She’d come by, pick up the boys, take them out for a quick field trip and a happy meals. 90 minutes of a quiet house and work getting done. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

My Quiet Thoughts this Friday are on the village and learning just how to use it and when to trust it. Sometimes, you have to accept help when it’s offered. Just say yes and then say thank you. Just trust that the help is being offered with sincerity, that the children will bring their home-training with them when they walk out the door, and that all will be well. It’s ok to breathe, to trust, to accept. The village is built to be leaned on.

I was able to spend my 90 minutes working on my novel, getting an outline of it to my story coach, producing a schedule to get the manuscript done by June 28th. I got it all done and off my plate before the boys were returned home. That gave me the room I needed this afternoon to get through the majority of a looming freelance assignment (and now, to get this blog post done at a reasonable hour). My friend came, got the boys, performed her service, dropped them off and then, poof, she was on her way again. A fairy godmother for my working day.

Kindness cascades. It starts small and then snowballs, growing bigger and bigger until great and awesome things occur. For me, the recovery of a full day’s work without the guilt of “missing” something or being an inattentive mother is a huge, wonderful gift. The boys are happy, the house is peaceful. When I log off of this computer tonight, I’ll feel accomplished. These are small things relative to the larger concerns of the world, but for me, on this day, in this life, these are priceless gifts. Have you performed an act of kindness lately, Dear Reader? Always keep in mind that even your smallest gesture can grow and bear enormous fruit.

It is a clear Friday night with anxiety in the air. Are we getting another storm on Monday? Nobody wants to make a committal answer. The snow is melting quickly, the trees creak and groan in the gentle breeze. The waterways spill over and flow swiftly.

It’s a night to breathe, to wait, to rest.

I have wishes for you this Friday, Dear Reader. I wish for beautiful green finding its way through the snow. Let hope blossom, even if more burdens loom. Help along that hope, Dear Reader. Admire it and make way for it. I wish you a friendly word, or two or three… sage advice from someone dear, or even just a little bit of encouragement from a friend. Words matter. They stick with us and echo. Receive a few this weekend and be sure to say a few of your own to someone who needs it. I wish you something delicious: deep, rich and full-bodied. Beef stew or a good plate of pasta with Sunday sauce, or curried anything. In these lingering weeks of cold, let those slow-cooked dishes fill you up and sustain you. Fresh and crisp are coming. For now, savor the warmth. I wish you something fun, even a little mischievous: a friendly wager, a devious dare. Can you manage to get yourself in a little bit of trouble this weekend, Dear Reader? Nothing too dangerous… just something to get your blood pumping. Something to remind you that you’re still here, you’re still capable. I wish you a shared silent moment with the person you share your heart with. I sincerely love shared silence. I think it’s an intimacy that is underappreciated. Do you dare to find something profound and beautiful about someone you love this weekend, Dear Reader? I wish you an sincere offer of help, lovingly extended. I wish you the bravery to accept it, your mind and your heart open.

I wish you the reminder that asking for and/or receiving help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a recognition of your own humanity and the illumination of the humanity of the person who has offered to help. When we deny someone the opportunity to perform a kindness, we choose not to recognize them as full and human and wonderful. Every week, I remind you that you’re infinitely beautiful, Dear Reader. I weekly ask you to be the light in the darkness. Part of being your brightest is recognizing the lights of the others around you. You’ll never dim in the light of a helping friend. You’ll both shine that much brighter. Shine on, Dear Reader. You’re stunningly, infinitely beautiful.

Until Monday, take care.

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