Monday, January 4, 2010

PB&J, With Love

On our plane home from Grandma and Grandpa's this afternoon, Abby finally conceded she might need something more than dried cranberries and gummy bears for lunch (gummy goods are our trick for keeping the kids' ears poppin' during take-off and landing). So I pulled out the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Josh's mom made for the kids early this morning.

Somehow I neglected to notice it when I packed the sandwiches into our backpacks, but when I pulled them out, I saw a piece of masking tape on each sandwich baggie bearing the following message: "I [heart] U." I pointed it out to Abby, who grabbed the bag to dive into her sandwich, and proceeded to feel huge swells of affection for my mother-in-law (here she probably shakes her head and rolls her eyes in embarrassment).

It was a simple gesture that by itself is sweet, but following our weekend with her and Josh's dad, was profound for me. Josh's parents love our kids in all their childish foibles and glory, and being at their home this weekend was a gift of respite, of security, of fun, and of love. When we're there, the pace is easy and slow--just about the pace the kids operate. There is little agenda other than meals planned and cooked by Grandma and an attempt to get outside for a walk or for some playtime in the driveway or to scatter deer food for the forest-dwelling visitors that frequent their yard. The kids love the nearly undivided attention they get from all of us, one minute reading Grandma's collection of books from when Daddy was a kid, the next building cars out of "little legos," the smallest legos made that Grandma keeps in a huge, sweater-sized ziploc, probably also saved from Josh's childhood--novel because they are different from the bigger ones we have at home.

And the best part for me: sleeping in. Grandma is an early bird, and so she rises when Ben does, spending the first hour of the day playing with him and, eventually, Abby until Josh and I are ready to face the day. I think we got to stay in bed until 7:30 or 8:00 four mornings in a row. (Sleeping in as a parent has a definition I wouldn't have recognized five years ago). It was glorious.

So after a truly delightful and restful weekend where I found myself reflecting multiple times on my good fortune to have married into such a beautiful and wonderful family, seeing this small gesture of affection nearly brought me to tears--because I know she means it. And somehow, I know that the message is for me, too. It reminded me of the bouquet of flowers they sent me the day after Josh proposed: it was huge and lovely and arrived with a small card saying, "Welcome to the family." The acceptance was absolute, and warm.

With all the insecurity I feel as I struggle to raise Benjamin and Abigail, few things could touch me as deeply as her tender gesture. She, I'm sure, feels it was no big deal. And on the one hand, she's right. It's a piece of tape with three small characters on it. But on the other hand, it's everything.

It reminded me that sometimes all our fearful, insecure, self-doubting hearts need is a small reminder that we are loved, that we are accepted, that someone believes we are okay. She gives this gift to the kids and, in turn, to me. And I realized that this is probably all my kids really need. As they struggle to make sense of this enormous and unknown world, trying each day to learn right from wrong, to learn how to advocate for themselves while respecting others, to learn who they are and who they can become, all they really need is for someone to remind them that they are okay, that they are loved, that they are important. They need for someone to make them a sandwich with love. Even if I can't adequatley explain the mysteries of the universe to my precocious four-year-old, I think I can do that.

So Abby ate her sandwich, and I offered a small prayer of thanks for Dave and Dorothy, Josh's Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. And I relished Abby's sandwich as much as she did.

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