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Recently, we spent a couple of weeks at my mum’s house visiting her and her sisters. Her youngest sister, Leslie throws a fourth of July pool party every year and invites family and good friends, some of which she and her husband Jacks have known since college. After hearing about it for years, this year we were finally able to go and it was lovely: a relaxed party with good food and music and excellent company. It turned out to be somewhat of an informal family reunion this year including my mum, two of her sisters, two of our cousins, my sister, me and our kids.

There is something about the ease with which our family gathered and enjoyed each other despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other much in the past years. Everyone had fun with the kids, took turns playing with them in the pool, dancing with them or just hanging out while their very grateful parents got some much appreciated time to ourselves.

It was a real treat for us to have a parenting break, do a bit of shopping and even enjoy a leisurely lunch by ourselves. I am realising more and more how important it is to have time to ourselves during the day when we are both not too tired to have a good conversation, when we can enjoy each other’s company in a different way than we do curled up on the couch together in the evening. (So thank you Les, Georgia and Theora for the spontaneous baby sitting and thank you Mim for the whole day of sitting, too!) We had a great time.

The baby sitting was so lovely and important to us, but there was an even greater gift. When people talk about having family nearby (or not) they often focus on the practical help family can give. Certainly help with the kids is such a wonderful thing and so good for the parents, but I find there is an even greater benefit of sharing our children with those who love them. When we do this,  my gaze is lifted from the minutia of parenting (bedtime routine, potty training, sibling wars etc.) to the bigger picture. The bigger picture of this person growing up before my eyes, full of wonder, her own perspective, her own talents and ways of doing things. The ratio of work to enjoyment increases instantly (in favour of enjoyment), as relatives remark, “Oh isn’t she cleaver?” Why yes she is. Or when they tell me how in love with my children they are. My heart jumps and I realise, again, how in love with them I am and am reminded of the many things I adore about them. It is in this light, cast on them from those they love and who love them that they sparkle and shine like no other people I know.

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