For the past two weeks, my oldest son has been in the Midwest without us. We went and visited friends at Christmastime, and at the last minute, found a super-cheap flight for him to come back later. He was thrilled. We have never done the Unaccompanied Minor thing, and it went fairly smoothly. Or, at least, it would have if the airline hadn’t cancelled his flight. But he came home early the next day, only a little worse for the wear. He’s got a great story to tell his friends now.
When we made the plans for his trip, all I could think about was how much fun he was going to have with his friends, and how spending two weeks with a family we love and trust would be such a good experience for him. It was all those things, and more. Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, it made me realize what an invaluable help he is to me.
I think Baby J cried more in those two weeks than he has in all his little life up to this point. He had no big brother to come rescue him when I needed to be doing something other than hold him. I also wrenched a muscle in my back, trying to wrangle a heavy baby while shopping the clearance racks at Old Navy. I had no idea how much I depended on my oldest for help with my youngest. The girls also had to divide up between themselves chores that normally fell to their brother.
My son’s absence brought home a reality that has been floating around in my head for a few months now: I am out of the woods with small children. I am past the point where I have three or four little ones, all needing attention and none of them independent. After 10 years of instruction and training, my oldest is now able to contribute helpfully to our family workings. And not just helpfully, but really helpfully. Most days, when I have a problem, he will come running to help me with it. He can make lunch in a pinch, clean the bathrooms (not up to my exacting standards, of course, but at least they’re clean!), cart his baby brother around, and help my 1st grader with her math homework.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not sitting back and watching Downton Abbey from here on out. But I have finally reached the tipping point where the kids go from being a net drain to being a net plus. It has been exciting to watch that reality unfold this past semester.
So for those of you who are still a few years away, take heart! The deadline is a little closer than you think! Remain faithful, training and teaching your children, and the payoff will soon come!
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9