Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Tom Cornille
This morning I woke up and looked out the window of the farmhouse in the Ardennes my partner and I rented for the weekend. I saw our two daughters standing by the fence of the adjacent field. One girl was petting the large but oh so gentle dog, while the other was scratching a donkey between the ears.
The idyllic nature of the picture is in sharp contrast with how I imagined this weekend. It was planned a long time in advance, so I had a long time to prepare, mentally. As the time grew nearer, however, I found myself getting more scared and worried about how things would go, rather than getting more excited.
We have 5 kids between the two of us, all between the ages of 5 and 8, so they are pretty close together. Our kids know and like each other, but they are also very energetic and can butt heads at times. When they do, it results in quite a bit of drama, and that’s exactly the thing I feared would overpower this weekend.
My fear isn’t a 100% justified. We’ve spent days together where the 5 children played beautifully for most of the day. Toward the late afternoon we can usually tell when they need some time away from each other for peace and quiet.
But my fear isn’t 100% unjustified either. We will be together for 4 days and 3 nights. It’s not like it always runs smoothly. We have to intervene and help guide things in the right direction, and we have to separate the two families at times for the sake of our own (and the kids’) sanity.
What I fear most of all is that there will be some kind of situation that leads to irreparable damage. I’m worried the tension will cause my avoidant tendencies to flare up. Or that the lack of calm moments will cause me to lose my patience and say something I can’t take back. Most of all I’m worried that we will go home and I won’t feel up to having another vacation like this, because I really want to see our two families enjoying time and having fun together.
The question I need to ask myself is in how far my image of how things might go wrong helps colour my experience of how things really are. Yes there have been some squables, but they were solved. Yes there have been tears, but way more laughs already. Yes, my partner and I have been triggered at times, but there have been way more moments of understanding and natural cooperation between us.
Perhaps the time is right to let go of this fear and start trusting that the love we feel for each other, and for those 5 amazing children, will lead the way out of any problem or difficulty we may encounter.
And when that fear does pop up again, I’ll remember it’s there to remind me of how much I care that this weekend is the kind of joyful memory I wish it for everyone to be.
Now I’ll get to the soup while my partner finishes carving the faces in the pumpkins.