J and I have three kids, beautifully and perfectly spaced–as if we planned it–at 25, 22, and 12. Not only are they beautifully spaced, they are beautiful, inside and out. They’re not perfect, mind you, but they are inquisitive, loving and spirited individuals, each setting off on their own path in the world, independent, but still lovingly tied to our nuclear family in one way or the other. We are blessed!
Still, as you can imagine, having our kids spaced so beautifully, over a 13 year span, has had its challenging moments. When we first found out we were expecting number 3, we quickly did the math. That would mean 32 years of parenting a child at home (not counting summers and vacations during college or the post-college graduation temporary resettlement plan into the family home!). Whoa! 32 years, we said to ourselves! That’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint! We better slow down. When you’re sprinting, you’re rushing to the finish line, trying to get there first so you can enjoy both the rush and anticipate the first sip of water after the race. After that emerges a picture-perfect day, week, month, life, of relaxing on a beach, taking in the sun while sipping margaritas or something equally delicious. A sprint happens so fast, life seems blurry, lacking details, but definitely exhilarating even if exhausting. And the prize–the gold star, the trophy, the medallion hanging from your neck–along with the cup of water and later the margarita, make it all the more enticing. Three, two, one–and off we go, for 18 years of parenting until college! Then we have an empty nest, some extra money on hand, and years of traveling and exploring the world before doting on grandkids.
So, once upon a time, in 1991, we began our sprint, and kept at it until 2004 when our sprint became a marathon. We didn’t abide by our new marathon rules all the time. We still succumbed to over-scheduling and over-parenting at times, and certainly the first 6 years, when all three kids were living full-time at home, chaos reigned and it did often feel like a sprint. And yet, we knew deep inside that we were running a marathon. As marathon runners, we tried (and still try) to remember to slow down, to actually see what we’re passing through, to transform the landscape from Monet’s impressionism to a more photo-realistic one where we can actually see and appreciate the individual trees and leaves. Our life, slowed down, became more rich and more full of cherished and remembered moments. Our third child in all her chaotic glory somehow slowed our family down. Our teens, busy with their own crazy sports, music and social schedules, slowed down with us to look in wonder at this beautiful baby toddler preschooler kindergartner as she developed before our very eyes. She was the rock of our life, our sprint-come-marathon, the one who forced us to slow down and experience life more fully than ever before.
And then came the fourth child. You know, the cancer. That truly chaotic and howling baby-toddler who takes up all your time and makes you wonder how you ever felt busy or overwhelmed before it came. But it did come and you do feel more overwhelmed than ever before and you wonder how you’re going to survive the sleepless nights, the constant worry, the endless to-do list.
Cancer came and announced itself present to an unwelcoming crowd. It was just J, child number 3 and I who were living in the homestead at the time cancer came knocking, but we all heard the knock. Similar to child number 3’s arrival, it jarringly knocked us off our game (minus the joy), but at the same time became the family’s glue, our special lense through which we began to view our life. Every moment together became precious, or, as the blogger of Left Boob Gone Rogue stated in one of her posts “You value moments more than hours.” I think of it as being akin to when you’re staring at your newborn and watching her breathe or utter the slightest of sounds and the world stands still, if only for a moment. When J was diagnosed with cancer, our world did indeed stand still, if only for a moment, and then we took a deep breath, and kept walking. Not running–walking. Sipping the moments. Examining the leaves. Experiencing one of the many gifts of cancer.