The Vacation Mirror

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Sorry I’ve been away. We have been in a post vacation coma of sorts. When we woke up it was back to school time; which meant neglect for the blog. My boys are currently watching the Ohio State football game with hot homemade submarine sandwiches in their bellies. This leaves me with some time to write.

For vacation this year Eric and I returned to the house in Emerald Isle, NC where we spent our honeymoon. The beach house is owned by a friend and a weak long stay was gifted to us when we were married. It really is a special place filled with warm memories. This is our first return since our honeymoon and this time we had my mother and my step-sons S-man and C-man in tow. The kids have affectionately named my Brooklyn grown mother “MeMaw.” It’s funny because that name encompasses the antithesis of who my mom is. My mother is a cosmopolitan woman who would prefer her grandchildren call her by her first name Chris in public. My boys think she is a hoot and very different from any grandmother they know. They call her MeMaw; even my mother appreciates the irony.

MeMaw was never very maternal. Mothering did not come naturally to her. For many years my mother was all but absent in my life, but we have built a nice relationship in my adulthood. I know her limitations (and she mine) and I don’t place requirements on our relationship that I know she cannot meet. What my mother lacks in warmth, she makes up for in style. She is a smart and beautiful woman with a great sense of humor and an even greater sense of style.  MeMaw is my mother and good friend. Since she recently retired we invited her to join us on our beach vacation. This is our first vacation together.

It’s funny how the small blemishes in your family become large pimples on the tip of your nose when you have an outside observer.  Actually, large pimples on the tip of your nose on school picture day! My step-sons have endured the chaos that comes with divorce; they are resilient. The boys have not been raised in an organic or parenting model in which they live with both their mother and father (you can read more about that here). In addition to splitting their time between two homes with very different values; our youngest has experienced some minor developmental and moderate social delays.  With the help of prayer, church and counseling our boys have experienced huge personal growth and maturity. That being said, we still make modifications. We see our modifications as small blemishes. Those who are not intimate with our situation, see them as large pimples. Let me outline a few examples:

  • Small Blemish: At mealtime, I prepare a separate meal for C-man because he is comfortable with a very limited menu. After years of       mealtime misery C-man’s counselor taught us to let go of the food battle to win in larger areas of his life; and it has worked.
  • Large Pimple: My mother watching me prepare a separate meal for C-man with the nightly commentary: “I would have never allowed you kids to get away with this” or “My kids ate what I made” and the famous “you are spoiling them.”
  • Small Blemish: Our boys don’t desire fun like their peers. You can ask my kids if they would like to go to Disney World and they will tell you no. You can ask my kids if they would like to go boating, skiing, biking, etcetera and they will tell you no. We have learned that you have to tell (not ask) our kids when it comes to social or leisure activities. They will be completely underwhelmed and maybe even annoyed at first, but then enjoy the activity and the nice memory that comes with it.
  • Large Pimple: MeMaw wondering aloud “why don’t your kids want to have any fun? They don’t want to do anything. It’s not normal. Why do you have to force them to do everything? ”

We stayed a week together in the beach house and this was the first time that MeMaw had spent an overnight with our boys. She noticed every idiosyncrasy, every scar of divorce, and every social delay. I heard a lot of “that is not normal.” I completely understand my mother’s response. This response was familiar as I felt the same way while I was dating my husband and first introduced to the boys. I was anticipating the scrutiny and the observations; I put my husband through them myself.

There was one observation I was not prepared for. Eric is not able to parent his children in an organic way; the boys don’t live fulltime in our home. My step-sons are frequently told that our Christian beliefs are intolerant. The dialogue in their home infers that dad is old-fashioned, without reason and unevolved.  S-man and C-man live in a home which has always diminished my husband’s role as father. For this reason, my husband has an aura of desperation when with his children. Watching my husband’s desperation with regards to his children is the biggest sorrow of my life. I was shocked that MeMaw noticed it. My mother used these exact words to describe Eric around our boys, aura of desperation, to express her sorrow for Eric. This rocked my world. I had thought this desperation was our secret. It really hurt me that someone else noticed.

Eric and I both spent years trying to control and fix our parenting situation. One realization we have come to is that we need to do all we can for the boys that is within our power but not forget to have faith in the Lord’s plan. We must not forget that God is always in control (even when we are not). Sometimes this is very hard, so I sincerely ask for your prayers. I know we have a long way to go in our journey of completely trusting in the Lord; but, we have made great strides. Due to some advice received in the confessional I have been meditating on our Lord’s Passion, spending time in Eucharistic adoration, and trying to make it to one weekday Mass.  I truly believe that this helped me to recover quickly from the image of our family as seen in the reflection of my Mother’s eyes.

Having faith in God’s plan allowed me to fully experience the blessings of our trip. We are blessed as a family to be in a position to financially afford a vacation when times for most American are tough. But most importantly, I had some awesomely precious family time. I was delighted beyond words to spend 4 hours in the ocean talking and body surfing with my 16-year-old two days in a row. There was a time in our family life that I would have given all I have to see my 12-year-old joyful; on this trip I watched him run towards the ocean downright giddy with joy. This is all part of parenting. We may not get to experience parenting according to our will, but sometimes the Lord gives us the extraordinary.  We only have to surrender our will to see it. Thanks be to God!

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Faith is a grace

153      When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood,” but from “my Father who is in heaven.” Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.’”

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