Last weekend I spent time with my brother and his little family down in North Carolina. He and his gorgeous wife have four kids, all under the age of six -- they're a seriously fun bunch. Taking care of that many people is just...beyond comprehension, but somehow David and Emilie have made it work for them.
There really is nothing like seeing your brother (your little brother, which I insist on calling him, even though we're in our thirties now) raise these truly amazing little humans -- the kids are generous and funny as hell and loving and so, SO adorable.
They're probably too adorable. I came back from my short trip with some kind of plague, and I've still managed to forgive them.
Every time I get the chance to see them, I'm reminded of the fact that we really don't give kids enough credit. I think we forget that they're humans, too -- full of emotions that they don't have enough experience to understand yet, with the capacity to learn and understand so much more than we realize.
We all got up on Saturday morning and piddled around the house -- I went into town and picked up croissants and cinnamon rolls for everyone (buying my way into the position of Best Aunt of 2016).
After we ate (and had enough coffee), David suggested that we go to Lowe's -- he was going to put together a swing in the backyard for the kids.
I went with him, along with Marion (age 3) and David Anthony (age 6). Even a simple trip to the hardware store is an adventure on its own, with children in tow. I guess it's because you have to learn to both be in the moment with them, while they're laughing or crying (or screaming), and think ahead to whatever your next steps are going to be so that everyone stays alive, at least for that day. Or for the next hour.
I don't know, I'm not a parent. But I'm amazed that y'all can keep those small people alive every day and still manage to get yourselves out of bed and put on clothes.
We made it out of Lowe's with everything needed for this new and epic backyard swing, and as soon as we got home, my brother got to work on things.
It was definitely a big hit. The kids took their turns on the swing, with either David or me pushing them.
And I mentioned it before, but we really don't give children the credit that they're due -- there is a lot to be learned from how kids experience the world.
One of those lessons is how to trust.
It was Marion's turn on the swing. She's a tiny thing, so I tried not to push her too hard. She held on while I pushed, but Aunt Rachel shoved her a bit too forcefully, and suddenly Marion was on the ground.
There's not really words for how awful it feels to hurt someone so small, so vulnerable. Someone who trusts you.
It's crushing, realizing you caused someone you love that kind of pain.
I scooped her up and ran inside the house. She held on to my neck, her legs wrapped around me, and we sat down on the couch next to her dad. I told David what happened, and he consoled her.
But she stayed in my arms -- still crying, although her sobs were quieter and subdued now. I told her how sorry I was.
And then she just sat there, catching her breath, her head on my chest while I rocked her a bit and held her close. I'm not sure how many times I apologized, but I whispered it to her while we sat there and she found her breath again.
And while we calmed down, it hit me -- she still trusted me. This little girl, despite the pain that I'd caused her, was still able to trust me with her safety and care. She trusted me to comfort her, despite the fact that I was the one who hurt her.
I was so humbled. I was honored. What a beautiful lesson she taught me -- I felt like a monster, but in her own little way, she assured me that I was not. I was still capable of caring for her, still a source of comfort and love. I was still trustworthy.
And, too often, as an adult, I've found reasons to stop trusting myself. I make a mistake and assume that my credibility or value is lessened because of what I've deemed to be a failure -- when instead it's a real opportunity to step up, own that mistake, and learn. Hurting others is an inevitability, especially when we love someone and grow so close to them -- but causing someone pain doesn't mean that we aren't also able to help them recover or support how they need to heal.
We took the rest of the day pretty easy after that. I left the next day, after lots of hugs and kisses, and with an ominous tickle in my throat (that I'm still recovering from).
I'm looking forward to my next visit, and the lessons that I'll learn from that.