I don’t tell the boys when we approach a visit with their sister.
Part of this stems from the true joy I have in surprising my sons with just about everything under the sun. I absolutely love watching their faces when they either realize where we’re going or what is about to happen… or the sheer joy when I pull off a 100% shocking surprise. Oh, that’s my favorite.
I should note that I loathe surprises and if my parents had done this to me I’d probably require more therapy than I already do. I thought maybe working surprises into the boys’ lives might help in that regard. Parenting is a crapshoot at best, and they seem to like it. So we stick with it.
And part of it stems from a few smaller known issues.
Plans can change. When plans change, feelings can get hurt and emotions can run high. While our home is a safe space for big emotions, I really try to avoid letting them down. I hold enough guilt for how my actions well before they were born continue to let them down in a number of ways. I acknowledge that the whole “letting down” thing is going to happen in their lives, but I try to minimize it where and when I can. I mean, I also regularly let them down because I’m a boring curmudgeon of a mother. You know, there’s that.
There’s their excitement and, hand in hand with that, anxiety. “Is she here yet,” quickly escalates to an argument over who gets to sit next to her in the car. (Meanwhile, the both do, because she sits in the middle.) While some might see that as sibling rivalry extending into our unique family unit, I recognize my sons’ personalities and anxieties for what they are: They worry they won’t get enough one-on-one time with their sister. Gut punch.
Lastly, a totally selfish reason: I’m anxious enough about visits for approximately eleven billion reasons. Do I have enough food and snacks and drinks for everyone? Is the house clean enough? How many times will Callie excitedly pee on the floor? How much is too much? How much is not enough? How do we fit in all I want to do? Is there enough down time for a bunch of introverts and Nicholas? How do I properly process my emotions on the fly during a visit? How hard will the boys crash emotionally on Sunday when they leave? How hard will I crash on Sunday night when the boys go to sleep?
And so on.
I no longer fret about what to wear. I did realize last visit that we only take them to the same restaurants every time, so we’re gonna change it up a little bit this time around. But my brain can spin out of control if I let it. When the boys aren’t asking me eleventy billion questions about the visit, I have time and space to breathe, to make room for the emotions that are not only allowed to exist but continue to help push me toward some semblance of healing and peace.
Every single time I mindfully enter into a visit with an attitude of humble acceptance instead of anxious expectancy, I feel a growth and a change inside my soul. Oh, it’s still hard as fuck when she leaves. There’s no sugar-coating that truth. But I’ve noticed when I take that purposeful approach to a visit and practice some good self-care before hand, good things happen somewhere deep inside where things lay buried.
Remind me of this on Friday afternoon. I’m also hoping to snap reactionary photos of the boys seeing their sister, which should be at two totally separate times thanks to baseball (which has us at the field Monday through Saturday this year, folks!). For the past year and a half, I have witnessed that all on my own. I’m hoping to capture it this time. It’s truly a thing of beauty—something we worked hard to make a safe space for all.
Progress. She happens, especially after a period of hard, dark personal growth. Spring is here, and there is light.