“Mom?” “I don’t feel so well.”
And so it began. The end of our summer vacation before it even started. Or shall I say, the end of MY summer vacation. The one I’d spent a week prepping food for and three days washing clothes and packing suitcases for. The one I’d planned so well, jockeying around dental appointments, co-op meetings, therapy sessions, and various other activities just so that we could find 5 days in a row on the calendar of free time. The one that I’d researched and made phone calls for in order to secure tickets at a reasonable price. The one I’d been dreaming about for months as I dug potatoes in the hot sun, threw laundry into the washer, washed another sink full of dishes, and cooked another meal. We hadn't taken an extended family vacation since June 2019, and I was beyond ready to get away. Just a few more weeks, I’d say. Then, a few more days. Then, a few more hours, before I could escape it all and just go have fun with my family. Five days of me and the boys and my husband getting away from the reality of chores and obligations and appointments and just having an enjoyable time with each other. I couldn’t wait.
It’s just car sickness, I told myself, as I tried to clean the vomit off my little one’s carseat with an old napkin and wiped off his clothes while keeping one eye on the vehicles whizzing by us. But when it happened again an hour after we’d stopped traveling, and I felt his forehead getting warmer and warmer to the touch, I knew it wasn’t carsickness. We made him comfortable in the motel room and for the remainder of the trip, that’s where he and I stayed, while the rest of the family enjoyed the summer vacation that I had planned.
My husband, being the good sport that he is, offered to take a turn staying with our sick child in the room, so that I could go out and have some fun, too, but I declined. As much as I would have enjoyed riding the log flume and eating ice-cream with my older boys, a bigger part of me felt like I needed to be with my sick child. So, I encouraged them to go on and have a wonderful time and assured him that I and the little one would be just fine. And although I had initially expressed bitterness at the circumstances (“WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN NOW??”, I had exclaimed the night before), once I accepted that I had a child who needed me more than I needed a vacation, my soul finally began to feel peace again. It was as if I could hear God saying, “Okay, pass this test,” and, I think I did pass it, even if I didn’t get an A+.
Which has gotten me to thinking a lot about all the little tests that come with being a mother. If nothing else, motherhood has been the most effective means God has found in teaching me just how much I need to grow in humility although, marriage is a close second. Both involve relationships that cannot be navigated well without a continual outpouring of grace from Our Lord, of that I am sure. I could almost feel the grace come into my soul in the form of acceptance of the circumstances that had caused my vacation plans to unravel. It’s as if, once I did the work of having a more humble heart, God gave me the ability to accept what I could not control, and my bitterness and disappointment just melted away. Acceptance must certainly be one of the many gifts of humility, and it is a feeling that is still somewhat foreign to me.
It has been (and probably always will be) my greatest challenge to humble myself enough to be worthy of this gift of acceptance. I struggle to see whatever unfolds before me as part of God’s divine plan. Instead, I want to “fix” every situation, every person, and make things “better”. Only, too often, my desire for control and fixing makes things far from better. It often looks like me criticizing my husband for not hanging up his shirts, instead of thanking him for bringing in the laundry. It looks like me yelling at my kid for spending 2 hours doodling on his homework, instead of seeing him as a person who is far more creative than I will ever be. Sometimes it looks like me wanting to find a part-time job so that I can be regarded as "successful", instead taking pleasure in the success of being able to prepare healthy meals for my family with fresh food from my garden and keeping a tidy home where they feel comfortable.
A few hours before it was time to head home from our vacation, my little one was feeling better, and asking for potato chips. When he figured out that he’d missed all the planned vacation fun because he’d been so sick, he was disappointed, and his little lip began to quiver and his eyes fill with tears. I hugged him and assured him that he would get another chance.
And he will. And so will I. And perhaps the next attempt at taking a family vacation won’t go as planned either. Or maybe it will. Either way, I know that if I have a humble heart, trusting that God always works all things for our good, that He will again give me that gift of acceptance. In the meantime, I guess He just needed to remind me that sometimes, a vacation is less about escaping my reality and more about finding it.