I see a lot in this photo.
I see weeds and work left undone.
I see a house that is full of broken things but teeming with love and happiness.
I see a family that has come through its most difficult year, shed tears, faced devastation, lost people we love, and bear the scars to prove it.
I see a family that continues to face tremendous pressure but with resolve, led by a woman of remarkable courage.
I see pure, unadulterated joy.
I see myself.
I see myself and wonder what wonderful thing I did in a past life to make me worthy of such a musical existence.
I see foolish kitchen dancing and messes on the rug and curling up by a fire to watch a movie.
My wife sees a lot in this picture too.
But mostly she sees that @%$ing brass mailbox she’s wanted to be replaced since Christmas.
My name is Carey and it has been three days since I’ve seen my children.
Don’t worry – they’re fine.
It’s Easter break at school and they’re both home all week and so my wife thought it might be a good idea (read: a good way to prevent nervous breakdowns, epic battles and regrettable corporal punishment) to break up the week by spending part of it at the cabin.
I thought it was a great idea. The kids love the lake and we’re in the middle of some home renos so I figured it would give me a chance to work my tail off in the evenings to make our home a bit more . . . well, not a broken disaster.
And it has been great. The kids are having the time of their life playing around at the lake and I’ve accomplished a crapload of house stuff in their absence (it’s a scientific fact that productivity declines by 99% with each child under 6 who is present).
The quiet, the alone time, the productivity, the peace and the self-indulgence have been fantastic.
And really by ‘fantastic’ I mean ‘excruciating.’ I miss them so much I just might have a nervous breakdown.
Being rudely awakened at an ungodly hour by a little girl climbing into our bed carrying two blankets, three stuffed animals, two barbies and an outfit change?
Best way in the world to wake up.
Having a little boy climb all over you and poke you in the eye so you’ll pay attention to him while you’re trying to have an adult conversation?
In retrospect, it’s the best damned way to have a conversation.
My name is Carey and I miss my children
In the foreground is a craft.
It is a marker & crayon organizer that our daughter made when my wife and I told her to “go and play quietly so Mommy and Daddy can talk.” We didn’t help with the construction or the labeling and I think it’s pretty darned good.
In the background is a mess.
Dirty dishes and clothes and some tears and the frustrations of being 5 years old and not quite knowing your way around the world. Anxiety and upset tummies that make you miss your school Valentine’s Day party and a rip right through the cover of your favourite book.
In between though?
In between that craft in the foreground and that mess in the background is a look of such sheer pride, such happiness, such self-satisfaction and wonder . . . that if you look at it for a few seconds, the mess in the background just fades and fades and suddenly poof it’s gone.
Before I was a parent, I don’t think I could really have imagined with any certainty the spine-twisting, knee-buckling devastation that is Watching Her Get Onto the School Bus For the First Time.
There is so very much that awaits her on the other side of those creaky old doors, just up those three impossibly tall steps.
So much joy is there. So much discovery. So many new worlds and people and experiences. But also so much pain, so many obstacles and so much hurting.
To see it for the very first time, to know that beyond those doors and up those steps are fights her Daddy won’t be able to fight for her, owies her Daddy won’t be able to fix, and tears he won’t be able to erase with a blankie and a cuddle and an enthusiastic story . . . it’s almost more than a parent’s soul can handle.
It’s the simultaneous terror and wonder of being a parent that at once breaks your heart and builds it back up again.
At least, that’s how it feels from here. Just try telling that to the little girl in the polka-dot backpack, grinning and bounding up those three impossibly tall steps right up into a whole, shiny, big new world . . .