The first week of 2014 and the last week of our family holiday break came to a relaxed end. I took my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to the Toronto show of the Nutcracker upon her request. It was just the two of us off for a fancy lunch, dressed to the nines braving the bitter winds and walking over ice patches. She surprised me with her patience at waiting and one of her greatest attributes, going with the flow, even if I did have to pull out a few reminders about sitting still during the ballet.
A friends birthday party and some family snuggles later it was back to school and work for our brood. A little bit out of sorts for everyone the first early morning, ice storms and freezing temperatures, the kids went from having tons of free time to being cooped up inside with no recesses due to the weather which was a bit of an adjustment. While they were busy dealing with school, this mom went into full-tear down Christmas mode at the house and started organizing the chaos that comes with having three small kids full-time for two weeks. I was on a deadline, for Mr. L’s birthday was fast approaching as well as a pre-planned trip with another couple to Las Vegas!!! However, as exciting as the prospect of some adult time alone after a very full, but kid-oriented three weeks over the holidays, my mind was on two things:
1. How do I pack for Vegas with just a carry-on?
2. How do I get my house in order in three days to accommodate the various family members pitching in to come and stay with our kids?
So off I flew in a caffeine sleep-deprived state. One day dedicated to getting all the Christmas decorations away. No way was I having my mother arrive without that done. Not only would she sigh and ask, “THIS is all still up?” but would then proceed to tear everything down and carry the huge plastic containers to our basement down two flights of stairs. One day while Jacob was at daycare to get necessary errands done including groceries for food for the kids plus family members favourite drinks of choice, book store for supplies for the trip, drugstore for toiletries. One day to clean, change sheets on beds where guests sleeping, make sure towels/soaps and toilet paper are all stocked up in each bathroom, pack my own suitcase, write lists for three groups of people, ensure dog has food and finish the laundry. Thank goodness our twice a month cleaner was scheduled to come on the Thursday! All of this in between trying to keep three kids busy after school and making dinner for everyone. I even managed to check in on-line for our flight Wednesday afternoon. Needless to say, the night before our flight, I went to bed at two am. But it was done. I had done all I could do to ensure our guests comfort and ease the only thing I could do to show my gratitude at having help with the kids.
As the first shift of caregivers arrived early Thursday morning, I flew around making sure health cards were accessible and the van cleaned out. My mother and aunt arrived with two nieces to take the kids on an outing to a local aquarium. I even remembered to call the kids schools to alert them of their absence before Mr. L shoved me to the waiting vehicle. Our kids barely said good-bye, excited at the prospect of a special day with grandma.
As a mom of three or more kids knows, finding reliable care for your kids can be tricky, especially if for an extended period of time. You need someone who can take the exhausting fun and multi-task at lightening speed. You need someone who gets it. My mom gets it having raised three kids herself. She also gets when she needs back-up and thus my aunt had come along for the ride.
As Mr. L and I drove to the airport he asked,
“So, what’s the schedule again? Who is coming when?”
Rolling my eyes but remembering as a birthday trip he had been left out of most of the planning I went over it again.
Shift One – my mom and aunt. Taking kids on adventure and I’m pretty sure my mom can handle the school stuff Friday.
Shift Two – another person who gets it. My sister surprised me when we were chatting over the new year and I was expressing my frustration at trying to accommodate two sets of grandparents schedules and needs as I had a gap that needed to be filled due to my mom needed to leave a half day earlier. An afternoon and overnight. She graciously offered to come, bring my nieces and have a slumber party with the kids. I was so grateful tears sprang to my eyes knowing someone was here who could handle it.
Shift Three – my mother-in-law. She was the only one able to stay very late the Sunday night being retired and our flight returned quite late as everyone else worked.
Did I mention we live an hour from all of these people?
During our trip we received random reports: Kids doing well! Had to put Jacob in time-out but it worked. Loved the aquarium. Kids got to school. Feeding your children copious amounts of sugar and watching movies. (Their Aunt). Happy Birthday they are all well, safe flight home.
Overall we knew they were in good hands and expressed our thanks many times to each and every person.
Thinking back the only phrase that comes to mind is that it really does take a village to raise a family, whatever you village entails. Each person’s village may be different; parents, siblings, cousins, friends or neighbours. Whomever your village is, knowing you can call on them when needed is important. Mr. L and I love traveling with our kids, but it was nice to visit a new place and come back tired, (it was Vegas!) but refreshed. I know we’ll need to call on our “village” again in the future but I also know, if I’m called, I would help any of them in a heartbeat. Isn’t that what family is for?