Sunday, July 26, 2009

Full House

This summer, as you all know, has been an experiment in family dynamics (and, so my father who is currently in a grad class at Washington University with the terrifying title, "Oil Wars" tells me, it may become the norm as the decades pass and we Americans persist in our addictive love affair with foreign oil ;-) as Leon, Sydney, and I have become residents in my parents' home.

It's been super. Syd is so happy, and Leon and I are so thankful. I suppose, the family member who seems most distressed is Bailey, but that might just be his 9 years of Golden Retriever life creeping up on him (though he sure does love chasing squirrels in the backyard! My folks seem to have an abundance.)

This week, our full house is totally stuffed as my sister has come to town with her kids: Gabe (7), Asher (3.75), and Rhylah (21 months). Nate (her hubby) gets here Friday, and we will indeed be a massive grouping of Staude-Jameson-Harrmanns. It's pretty outstanding, truthfully - and my sister made the observation that this is the first time she and I have both stayed here since she got married! So Mom and Dad are totally loving it; all the kids are HOME. And until I became a parent, I don't think I could have truly grasped how neat this must actually be.

With family dynamics ever in flux and families living farther and farther apart, this time of togetherness is really something to be cherished. Here's what's great about family all together:

1. It's loud - really loud, kinda crazy loud. This is good for Sydney, who as an only child lacks that chaotic normalcy that comes with siblings and larger family units. Loud means you have to listen more closely; express more carefully; and generally appreciate the speed and intensity that comes with all that energy. It's good for people like me who tend to focus a bit too intensely on the schedule, the routine, and the details.

2. Everybody pitches in - or nothing gets done. You help clean; make sure the kids have dinner; keep an eye on everyone in the pool; pick up other people's toys; share your bed with the kids because they love to get up early and just want to be with you. It's a wonderful sense of together that you don't often get in "normal" suburban family living these days.

3. You make memories that matter - I wish Syd was a little older. Today in church during the last hymn, Papa (that's my Dad) was holding her, and suddenly Rhylah wanted to be held, too. So there was Papa (getting some serious forearm work done) with his girls and the congregation singing, and Kate and I watching them -- and I had this thought, "they won't ever remember this." But Kate and I will. And they'll always know his love for them, even when he can't pick them up!

We all know that American family life is in a state of change. Different roles, increased financial concerns, competing schedules of family members, job transitions, more extra curriculuar things for the kids to do than ever before - having everyone share a space is just not what happens that often, if at all, for many families. It's a total joy to have this summer of family life, and to find new connections and meaning in our relationships with each other. It's one of those "I wouldn't trade it" experiences, and that makes us all very glad, indeed.