I know it may sound strange, but my kids actually seem to enjoy spending the time together as a family. I know I should immediately knock on wood because now that I’ve said that it’s going to change, there will be the argument, the shouting match, the slammed doors, teenage mutant ninja hormones or what have you, but it’s been OK so far.
When I got home from work last night I was getting ready to put dinner together. I’d bought a rotisserie chicken, nothing fancy, but we’d made some wild rice and corn and made a nice little meal of it. I hadn’t really thought much more than just putting it out and eating. No sooner had I turned around but Noah, one of the twins, had cleaned off the kitchen table and was wiping it down with a sponge.
“Grandma showed me how to do this,” he said, huffing and puffing as he reached across to clean off the table.
I marveled at him. He had put away the stuff sitting out, gently placed his sister’s new Christmas presents onto the bookshelf behind the couch and was already setting out the plates and silverware for the night.
“I like eating at the table, Dad, can we do it tonight please?”
We’d spent the last couple nights, being soup or pizza due to my being sick on the floor in the living room to avoid cleaning the table, and quite frankly, so I could teach a lesson to the kids that they can’t have dinner in the kitchen when you can’t GET to the kitchen because of all the dirty dishes. Where their sister failed her chores, the rest picked up the slack.
It’s an amazing thing, this last couple months. We should have had a horrible time. It should have paralyzed us, hurt us, even brought us to our knees knowing that we were going through Christmas and New Year’s without Andrea. She was such a huge part of our lives how could we move on without her? How could we do this? But it’s back to the adage I’ve said before and the kids are picking up on it. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. No matter what happens, if we don’t have any money, if we’re having to move, if we need to fix the car . . . if we lost our wife and mother. We can tackle it if we are together. Where one falls, the other four pick us up.
So when I see Noah cleaning the table, I see Abbi stirring the rice. I see Sam putting clothes in the hamper.
It’s part of the new year, and the kids are taking it to heart. If we work together, if I’m not having to clean up the entire kitchen after dinner before I make treats for lunches and put lunches together and get the breakfasts in order for the next day I can get to bed before 1am. I am happier. They are able to do more. If there are fewer chores for me to do, there is more time for ALL of us to do things together, even on a weeknight. We can play Pictionary on the Wii. We can listen to old LP’s or new CD’s on the stereo.
We can sit and talk about how funny their Mom was.
Being sick has taught me a few things. Not the least of which is the fact that no matter how good a shape I think I’m in, I cannot do everything. My routine had been get up, cook breakfast, get the backpacks ready, make sure everyone is dressed, head out the door, then go to work. Work my full day, get home, make dinner, clean up, cook a dessert/lunch treat, do the dishes, run 1-2 loads of laundry, get the showers going, set out the morning’s clothes, midnight snacks, read a chapter, tuck in, get Hannah to bed, go down, make lunches, make breakfast plans, clean up the rest and then . . . do it all over again.
I got very sick because I was stretched very thin. The kids saw the virtue of my plan for the new year, and for once, in a brilliant magnificence, they agreed.
So we ate at the table, the kids rinsed off their plates, did the dishes (after I cajoled them into it) and we went into the living room and played some video games for a bit.
They finally got it. They’re taking what they’re given, and working it out on their own. I couldn’t be more proud!