In recent years, I've been doing a lot of those, "don't blink, young mamas" posts, both here and over on Instagram. (When I did blink, the cute little fellers snuggled up together on the couch in this photo had suddenly grown up and moved out of the house to start lives of their own. The nerve!)
Case in point: our oldest son is going to turn 36 this month. He left his home in NH at 18 to go off to college in South Bend, IN; after that, he only came back for school breaks and summers, until he was sent to his first post in the Army after he graduated from Notre Dame. So when he celebrates this next birthday, he will have been out on his own for the same number of years as we had him living under our roof. He has already spent half of his life living apart from his parents.
I recently read an Instagram post by a gal whom many of you have probably known for years but I've just "met" since I joined Instagram and found--to my delight!-- a veritable treasure trove of Catholic writers who inspire me daily. The IG post was by Laura Fanucci (@thismessygrace), and she wrote about how her husband and she were chatting with one of his colleagues, who was raving about his grandkids. Then he found out that Laura and her husband were expecting their fifth child. "His eyes went wide. I could see the usual jokes on the tip of his tongue. But then I fell in love with my husband all over again. Because he laughed & said: Yup. We're playing the long game." Laura goes on to say, "Playing the long game means keeping the end before our eyes. For most of our lives & our kids' lives (God willing), we will all be adults together. Isn't that a radical thought? The long game looks up from the ground we're walking and remembers the whole road is what counts. A full family life not just for now, but for always. No one I know went to law school or med school because they wanted the grueling years of the beginning. They were playing the long game...The long game is vocation's view. It doesn't dismiss today; here and now is always a part of the whole. But neither does it lose out on the greater good for a smoother short-cut."
I don't think I've ever read a simpler or more beautiful essay on the beauty of family life--and how grateful we should feel to be blessed with as many children as God gives us, in spite of how tough those early years in the trenches can be.
My husband always used to say that you had to be willing to have your children dislike you sometimes, while helping to guide them (and often having to discipline them) through the various difficult stages of their childhoods and young adulthoods. But again, if you were thinking of the long game, being willing to NOT be their friend all the time when they were young made it so that you could have the joy of being friends with them when they were adults. (I wrote about this once here at the blog, long ago.)
Anyway, moving on to the purpose of this post: to show you how our long game is turning out so far. To show you that, even though our four oldest sons were born in four years and then there was a five-year gap before the arrival of son #5, they have now become equals and good friends as adults.
When our youngest was learning to talk, he would light up and scream with joy "Dies! [Guys!]" every time he saw his brothers. They were his heroes and role models, and he spent most of his young life in a frantic game of catch-up. As I was going through all of his notebooks and papers at the end of his freshman year and trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, I found the most touching journal entry in his English notebook and I had to save it.
Well, I would say he is 100% "one of the guys" now. At his rehearsal dinner, one of his older brothers announced that it was time for a "brothers shot." Now, don't get me wrong--I am not a proponent of irresponsible alcohol consumption, in general. But this was more of a rite of passage, a ceremonial type of shot, one that celebrated the fact that the youngest in the family was now going to join his brothers in embracing the vocation of marriage (and hopefully one day, fatherhood).
That picture up above? That's evocative of a wonderful--and relatively short--season of our life, one that I still occasionally miss and think of with nostalgia. But I wouldn't trade where we are now for all the tea in China. That was just the short game.
This is what the long game looks like.
Son #2 could not make the wedding, due to family circumstances; but our youngest son's bride-to-be gamely
filled in for him.