Opal is approaching 20 months–the age at which both Mattheus and Lucien became big brothers, each in their own turn. There’s a touch of sadness in this passing moment, knowing that we are not currently expecting another family member. But it is a small touch. It’s too soon for us to face the uncomfortable stretching that happens when the universe is making room for another human being.
We are grateful that our children are close together. We love the gifts of love they share with each other, and the ever-present opportunities to learn about community life. I remember when Lucien and Mattheus first started to become friends, watching them exchange their secret understandings and realizing that they had a connection I would never be a part of. This was one of the most wonderful parenting surprises I have ever had.
But, it has been hard navigating this pack of siblings and the perpetual liminality of them arriving on each others’ heals. Magical and beautiful and surprising and hard. Everyday. Even on our smoothest days, I still find myself standing in the midst of three screaming toddlers, all in conflict with each other, all looking for a resolution from me. Most of the time all I can do is not lose my cool and hope I am teaching them a little bit about inner grace.
Thankfully, these hard days are getting easier, bit by bit. For the first time in almost five years there is a hint of having our feet on the ground again. With this comes the sense of an authentic rhythm. Not just a general flow of the day, not just pockets when we can expect events to unfold accordingly. Not just attempting it, but real rhythm. The kind that lives in your limbs somehow. The kind that nourishes the parts of us that modern life attacks. The kind that fills us with a sense of well-being and quiets the anxieties of the heart. The kind that allows our minds to rest, choosing when they need to be conscious and when they can relax into dreaminess instead of having to think about every little thing.
It’s the way the grain sounds in the feed bucket. Every morning. It’s knowing the cycles of the maple tree in our yard the same way we know the cycles of our days. And the changing path of the sun through our windows as the days grow shorter, and longer. It’s the feeling of the broom in our hands as it works its way into familiar corners. It’s watching my hands know just how to kneed the bread–a knowledge that eludes my head. It’s the predictable morning moments, knowing Lucien will wake up around five and patter across the house to our bed. Opal will stir at six–we could set our clocks by it. And Mattheus will doze on and off until seven if we let him, yelling out the bedroom door for all of us to be quiet. It’s the body knowing that it can fall fully into sleep and not wonder if someone will wake it in two hours. It’s understanding just how Tuesday will pass differently from Monday. And that the third week of John’s teaching block will always be a little difficult, as he juggles preparing for what is to come while wrapping up what has been. It’s watching Mr. Todd, the mailman deliver the post, day in and day out. It’s trusting that one thing will generally follow the next.
Like most of us modern human beings, I lived in a world liberated from, or at least oblivious to the rhythms of the natural world. The tyranny of schedule I knew–don’t hit the snooze button more than once, drop whatever you’re doing and move onto the next class when the bell rings–clock in, clock out. So when it was time to build a rhythm for my family, I was lost, not knowing where to begin. Sure, I’d learned about alternating inside and outside, quiet and active, ritual and repetition. I tried to write out the course of our day, with all of these things included, but it all felt so contrived and we’d get pulled off track after a few short days.
So I took the advice of a wise friend and started small, adding one thing at a time, bit by bit. A candle and a verse at bedtime. The same song for getting our outside clothes on. A weekly lunch rhythm. A bucket of hot soapy water for washing up after meals. Crepes on Sunday morning. Lots of home time free from disruptions. As each thing became habit, we added something else. And now, after five years, the rhythm has fully arrived and instead of a schedule that we put in place, it feels like a partner in our lives. A Being all of Its own that we invited into our home with our little repetitive activities. I can’t pin down the moment that She arrived, but one day I just became deeply aware of Her presence. Now that She is here, we feel Her out, adjust as needed as our family grows and changes and She buoys us through the moments of our lives. It’s like having a sixth member of our family, and we’re thankful that She’s here.