My husband and I met the
and their eight darling children during an eleven-year stint in southern Louisiana and we immediately adopted them as family.
We’ve missed them since we moved to the East Coast a few years ago, so when Janet emailed me in May to ask if we were open to a visit from a few members of their clan, I didn’t hesitate to give an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Here’s the thing, though.
I wasn’t sure how this could possibly be considered a vacation for the two of them.
My husband, John, and I have six kids and we live in a three bedroom, two hundred year old home.
While there is a lot of love in our humble abode, admittedly, there is also a great deal of noise, mess and chaos.
For many people, our house is the very last place they would want to stay on vocation, but Janet and Danny
to visit us.
to spend time in our h
appy, albeit insane, home.
Here’s what they didn’t do in the days after they arrived:
They didn’t tour Washington DC everyday like they had originally intended.
Instead, they spent afternoons sitting on my front porch swing, sipping lemonade and watching my children splash around in the kiddie pool and dash around in the hose.
Instead of sights and sounds of a big city, they chose to enjoy the simplicity of a summer day with my large, loud family.
They didn’t once ask to watch television or use the computer and I don’t ever remember seeing them frenetically checking their electric devices.
Instead, every morning after cereal bowls and coffee cups were cleared off the table, Janet braided the hair of each of my three daughters. Janet also gave each of the girls impromptu art lessons at my kitchen table.
Danny asked to take all the children strawberry picking and when, at the end of our trip to the orchard, the cashier announced we had picked over twenty five pounds and fifty dollars of strawberries, Danny threw his debit card down on the counter before I even had time to protest.
They didn’t criticize the very normal behavior of my children when some of them jockeyed for positions in the car or fought over the garden hose or the best toy.
Instead, I noticed Janet and Danny hiding mischievous smiles behind the backs of their hands when the kids would say or do something mildly inappropriate.
During their entire visit, they didn’t once offer unsolicited parenting advice, though I’m sure they could have given in to us.
Instead, they told me about areas of weakness in their own parenting, offered encouragement in this weary parenting journey, and relayed in a thousand different ways they thought John and I were doing a good job.
They never commented on the chronically dirty kitchen or the overrun laundry.
Instead, they chipped in to do dishes and sweep the floor.
One morning, as I flew around the kitchen tackling daily chores, Danny rocked the baby and said,--in a southern drawl that would make you weep because you were born north of the Mason-Dixon line-- “I’m working so hard, I don’t know what to do with myself.”
The next day, I walked into a room and found Janet folding my laundry.
When I fussed at her for doing my work, she stood up from the mound of clothes, put her hands on her hips, and told me not to argue with her.
Having children is a humbling, arduous journey.
The longer I’m a parent and the more children I have, the more I realize that what other parents most need is encouragement.
We don’t need unsolicited advice or commentary on what someone else thinks we’re doing wrong.
We need mentors who have been where we are and can encourage us to stay the course.
We need other wiser parents who acknowledge how hard it is to be a good parent and who can share their imperfections and struggles with us.
We need people to share their insight and wisdom and tell us everything is going to work out.
We need friends like Janet and Danny.
When I grow up, I want to be just like them.