This past weekend, we took a family trip to Melbourne. If The Husband and I were on the trip sans kids, which we were not, we would have stayed in the city, wandering its quaint alleyways and drinking and eating our way through their restaurants. We would have lingered over brunch one morning, savouring mimosas and Bloody Marys. We would have caught a match at the Australian Open and ambled through the park afterward.
We did none of those things.
Instead, we stayed at the beach. At a family-friendly hotel. We eschewed dinner plans one night out of exhaustion (mine) and ordered in. We went to Legoland Discovery Centre and saw half of Coco after driving through the rain to find Paddington 2 was sold out. We went to Luna Park and endured endless whining there, and walked through Kids’ Day at the Open to watch a shitty PJ Masks concert while our children cried there too. All of this was after a solid month of my being with the kids day in and out, through plane rides and airport checks, in beds and pools over two continents and hemispheres. We have been solidly together, this family.
I’m so sick of them.
The Husband had planned another trip in two weeks’ time, a driving holiday to the Hunter Valley, a wine region near Sydney. The kids were coming with us. I politely (tersely) asked if we could cancel it. I think I’ve had about all the travel I can take: the laundry and the packing before, the unpacking and the laundry after, the unfamiliarity and the anxiety it entails for at least two of us. I love my family, they are driving me crazy, I want to be with no one else, I want to be away from them for a considerable length of time, and all these things are true at once.
The Kid has taken to asking hundreds of questions a day. This is not an exaggeration. He asks questions he already knows the answer to and questions he doesn’t. He asks questions that have answers and questions that don’t. I have no f-ing idea why it’s Monday, man. And if you ask me again I’m going to need more meds. Also, I love you more than almost anyone (excepting two) in the world. How is this all possible?
The Husband asked me, during one of my stares his way as TK volleyed another set of queries, if I remembered when I couldn’t wait for him to speak. He smirked, and I launched plans to find a slow-acting, undetectable poison.
I think about all we try to cover up and pretend is pretty because these contradictions, this ambivalence, might just make us look…well, crazy. We are only allowed to be one thing: grateful. Right? One of my friends (okay, many of them, which is why they’re my friends) will have none of that. Call a turd a turd and such. Especially the one you carry in your hand to the bin because your kid just excreted it in the shopping centre’s car park.
This is life: the people I love the most drive me the most crazy. They are most in danger of my ire, my impatience, my shortcomings. They require the most grace from me and give the most and then we fail and forgive each other. It’s not a dance, exactly, though it has a rhythm; it’s more of a flailing. We’re all Little Brother, swinging our arms and legs around to nonexistent music and praying it makes sense in the end.
Speaking of Little Brother–he is as emotionally authentic as they come. He will let you know if he wants nothing to do with you in the moment. He wakes up full of joy (except from naps) and he screeches when things don’t go his way. I don’t know what to do with all that honesty except learn from it.
I don’t want to sigh my way through my marriage or my sons’ childhood. Summer is hard, though. Togetherness can be fraught. Your confidante turns into your target, your kids turn into your therapy bill. But who else can you, at the end of a screechy, tense, trying day, eat fries in bed with? Who else will endure your Chinese-food farts (that don’t make sense because you haven’t even had any Chinese food)?
LB translated something TK said the other day when I didn’t understand. They are playing and laughing and conversing, and the next minute they’re at each other’s throats and crying, and I sigh again. As I do, I hear my sister and me across the decades, our afternoons spent playing and fighting and my mom’s sighing reaching across the years. The sighs don’t end anything; they give us breath for the next day, hour, minute. Maybe tomorrow we’ll do better. Maybe we won’t. But either way, we’ll be there together.
But thank God we canceled that trip.