Lately I have been thinking about what makes a bonded family relationship? As Jake prepares to leave us in the fall and knowing he will likely never return to our home again as a resident, I have been thinking about what bonds a family together. What causes people children, parents, siblings, to continue to pursue relationships and share each others lives as they move out and move on?
My parents and siblings are at totally different places in their lives than John and me, yet, we are involved and active in each others lives more now than when we actually lived together! Why? And while we don't have the same daily interactions with John's family that we have with mine there is a deep sense of connectedness to them, a joy in knowing what is going on in their lives and a comfort when we spend time with them.
I have been worrying that we are not spending enough time together as a family during these last months with Jake, worry that we don't have enough memories to draw us back together. But as I look at what has bonded John and I to our families I am begining to think I should just relax and enjoy the time together.
Growing up we weren't a family that was constantly on the move, we didn't do a bunch of activities together, we pretty much sat around, watched tv and stared at each other, at least they might have been staring at each other, I stayed in my room most of the time. Today when we are together we do pretty much the same thing, hang out, chat, eat, tv on in the background. I think part of what makes us close is that we are all so comfortable just being together with no expectations. Family has become that safe place where you don't have to be anything, perform, produce. Family is the place where you can just be you. The good, bad and sometimes ugly can all come peaking out and we will still be here, still take you in, always forgive you, always love you.
These are our people, our family. Parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. They know everything about me, have been with me my whole life, and still they love me. I think that is a relationship worth preserving.
Nobody tells you when you have a baby that those sleepless nights, the terrible twos, teething, potty training, none of that compares with the emotional challenge of letting that baby go. Seeing him grow up, develop his own personality, independence and free will and then leaving you to begin a life of his own. It is what we are working toward throughout their childhood. In a way it is a sign of our success that they go off and become independent adults. Yet, after so many years of protecting them we now have to trust that they have learned enough to take care of and protect themselves.
And we have to trust that they will return to us. We have bonded as a family and home will always be a safe place to return and enjoy.
I have been worried that we aren't making this last summer with Jake fun enough. We aren't playing enough games together, we aren't doing activities together, we aren't camping together, together, together, together. We just exist together under one roof. And then I ask Jake to clean the kitchen for me and he doesn't and I am worried that I didn't teach him responsibility and I want to go back to 3 years old and start over again. I want a chance to do it just a little bit better than I did it last time. Now I know what to expect, I understand better what he needs. This time will be much better. Just one more chance!
But we can't go back, we can only go forward. And while I have seen lots of areas maybe I wasn't that strong a mother, I also see lots of areas where I was. I see his consistent personality, I see his loyalty, I see compassion, kindness and lots of charm, I see a mind that is always pursuing knowledge, a boy who is becoming a man who loves the Lord. And even though he doesn't always do what I ask him, I hear of a boy who is a star at his job.
Last week we decided to watch an old movie with Isabelle, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" We had been talking about it and she didn't know the movie. Jake came out of the office to join us and we all snuggled up on the couch to enjoy the show. It was fun, we laughed together, ate popcorn together, and now Isabelle will get it when we quote the movie. But while those are the moments we remember and talk about for years to come, I am starting to think those aren't the moments that actually bond a family together. It is the day to day. It is just sitting in the same room together checking facebook and turning to see that quick funny meme that was found, it is talking about the days activities over dinner, the high five as we pass each other in the hall or the morning hug on the way out the door. None of that seems special, none of that feels meaningful when we are doing it each day but those are the things that create the bond in the family. We love game nights, camping trips, canoeing. We love that stuff, but our family bonded not in the big events but in the day to day as we loved each other through the highs and lows, pressed through the frustrations, and continued to be present.
So as the days tick by closer and closer to Jake leaving I am letting go of some need to create an amazing event every day for him to cherish and instead keeping busy in the daily of my life while enjoying simply having him present for a little while longer knowing he will always be part of us and we will always be part of him. We are a bonded family, and time and distance cannot break that.