A few weeks ago, my little family had a classic meltdown. It was, typically, the result of putting together a group of people who were all tired, stressed, and hormonal (well, three-quarters of us, anyway).
There was the usual crying and yelling and my non-hormonal husband saying, “Let’s all just calm down,” and me acting crazy and, eventually, all of us in one room, working through the thing.
What do you do after a family meltdown?
After we’d hashed some of the ugly out, we were trying to figure out what to do next. It was dinner time, but the idea of sitting down to eat together seemed like a charade, like a game of pretend we’d just be playing. The thought of it was ridiculous, but no one knew what else we could do to make things better. Finally, after we sat around looking/not looking at each other for a while, I said, “It may feel like faking it. But we’re not faking that we love each other.”
So we ate the dinner in front of the TV with a game on, for background noise and built-in conversational cues. It was a little strained. We were still uneasy and awkward, of course. It felt like we were faking “happy family.” But we weren’t faking that we loved each other. That fact had never been in question.
Sometimes parenting is about faking it
The truth is that parenting big kids is often about faking it. Sometimes, we have to act differently than we feel. We have to put on a brave front when we’re terrified. We have to stay silent when we want to scream. We have to smile and let go when we’re aching to cry and hold on. We have to pretend we’re steady when we’re shaking.
A lot of the time, we don’t know what we’re doing, so we’re just taking our courage firmly in hand and going forward, hoping the winding road we’re on will eventually lead us all somewhere good.
As parents, if we never spent any time with our big kids or interacted with them until everything was smooth and easy and uncomplicated, we’d never do it at all. As families, if we never got together until there was nothing unresolved or tense between us, we’d never do that, either.
This isn’t about stuffing our feelings or refusing to deal with genuine problems. This isn’t about glossing over the root of issues while we make the surface look shiny. This isn’t about taking the “easy” road and neglecting to do the hard relational work that has to be done.
Sometimes, as a family, you just have to move forward with love
But sometimes, when we’re stuck in the limbo of not being sure where to go from where are, we just have to go forward based on what we are sure of: that we love each other.
Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, we have to act on what we do know: that we love each other.
Sometimes, when we don’t like each other, we have to remind ourselves of something that matters more: that we love each other.
Sometimes, when hurt and anger and stress and weariness are pulling us apart, we have to give more weight to what holds us together: that we love each other.
Sometimes in the middle of the messes and mistakes and murkiness, we have to hold tight to what is clear: that we love each other.
This isn’t love, the greeting-card emotion. This isn’t love, the happy movie-ending version. A lot of the time, this isn’t love, the feeling, at all. This is love, the decision. Love, the commitment. Love, the relationship. Love, the hope.
We’re not faking that we love each other. That’s not an act. That’s the real deal. And usually, when love is all we’ve got, we find out it’s not only enough; it’s everything.
More Reading to Enjoy:
My Parents Have Always Made My Life Easier
Hearing and Saying “I Love You” Never Gets Old
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters. She’s been married for 21 years to a very patient husband who carries on valiantly as the token male in a house of estrogen. When she’s not avoiding housework by spending time on her blog, Guilty Chocoholic Mama, or on Facebook, she plays the piano badly, bakes chocolate-chip cookie that cover a multitude of maternal sins, and tries to keep up her lone talent of being able to stand on her head.