I was invited on Facebook for this Friday to her Virtual Gratitude and Love Mob ( thank you Brit< Deb). What a better time to use the invitation to show love and gratitude to someone I haven't shown nearly enough to over the years. My little sister, Ariane. So here we go, Frog. May you someday soon be a dancing nurse in the OR:)
Phone rings, it's Ariane.
A: "Hello. What are you up to?"
L: "Not much. Driving to the grocery store. What are you doing?"
A: "Oh I'm just between Surgery class and Pharmacology and I had a minute to call and say 'hi'."
Seriously? Just between surgery class and pharmacology and had a minute, for me?
My sister has seven kids. They range in age from 1 to 20. The four youngest are boys.
And girl found a minute in between surgery and pharmacology class to call me.
This is remarkable for many reasons. Today is a good day to tell you why. It's a good day to apologize and show off my dark underbelly of Big Sister Judginess. (Don't worry, it's been dying for a while and is cold, hard dead now. But we can think of my judginess as a huge sea creature slain by my strong, smart sister- and I think she deserves to stand by with the dead carcass and have a victory photo snapped.)
You see, my sister was a little bit the fuck up. I was, on the surface, the success story. Sorry, but that's how it looked for a while. I always knew she was smart, and I always knew her heart was huge, but the truth is those qualities got buried in the haywire journey of youth. I was busy fiercely driving toward some notion of success that was unfamiliar to my family, and I viewed my sister with judgement, frustration and worry. I was mad about her teen years, and, in a way thought she was taking the easy way out as she built a family and I moved through life racking up a few superficial achievements.
Now here we are. I am a mother too. And something very peculiar has happened. I am watching my sister still, yes. Observing how she parents and watching how she gets through life, which has handed her some Grade A bullshit lately. And I am not judging anymore.
I am taking notes.
Hear this, little sister:
Remember when I borrowed your car when I was home once a few years back? I was shocked at its condition! McDonalds bags abounded and I think I had to move my feet around on the floor to get any room for them to touch bottom. Just because you had a bunch of kids- you couldn't get your damn car cleaned?
DECEMBER 2013: I literally could not get my car cleaned because it was too messy. That's right- there was too much crap strewn about for the cleaners to actually get to the dirt, so I passed the carwash again, promising myself to take a load in the house when I got home.
Remember when I breezed through college, furious that you couldn't figure out a way to finish high school?
JANUARY 2014: I wanted to take a class at the local community college this semester, but couldn't make it happen. You know, between my three children and my part-time nanny. Just can't swing the commitment yet. Call me between Surgery and Pharmacology so I can moan about it, eh?
And most importantly- this last Christmas when I visited home. Your kitchen was a mess, woman! I couldn't find a coffee mug.
And here, I cry.
I couldn't find a coffee mug, because you were too busy...hugging your baby Donavin. Your one year old baby. Fuck the dishes, there you were in a room full of kids and a catastrophe of Christmas toys, calmly letting your baby climb all over you. You were smiling that natural smile you always have with your kids. You were tuning out a little and talking baby talk to little D while he cooed a gummy smile at you and flopped lazily back into your arms. And then little Spencer came by and you offered him some sweet words about where he could find a missing toy.
I've got it now. And I'm so sorry. Because you're teaching me so much about what is important. Your kids are confident and happy. (Even though- zip up their coats!! God!). They are one hundred percent sure and confident that you can be relied on. They come to you and climb up, never worrying if its the right time.
This is a thing that I have only recently started to learn. My heart has not been totally open and I've struggled with patience and calm so so much. But something clicked after Christmas and things are changing. A good part of it was from watching you.
I've seen strength in you this last year that blows. my. mind.
As you lay in a hospital bed in Ann Arbor, on the verge of giving birth to your seventh child, and your forty-one year old husband lay in another bed down the hall trying to recover from a stroke and a heart failure, your other kids together, taking care of one another, I was beyond stressed for you. All I could do was send pizza.
Yet you never cracked. You just Got It Done. As you always do.
I see deep intelligence, an amazing sensitive heart and worry and frustration all living together in you. It's all there and you still have a smile and an open lap for your kids.
For all the successes that I experienced along the way, this parenting thing has seriously kicked my ass. And it's only the most important thing I've ever endeavored to do. I have many times complained on the phone to you about how hard it is. I've many times been calmed by your advice.
And after all these years, I can honestly say, I wish I was more like you. I am trying to be more like you. (Well, except the kitchen. I will FREAK the fuck out if I can't get to a coffee mug fast. But we have discussed how important the kitchen is on the list of priorities, so I'll work on that.)
So that should do it, Frog. Hope you like my Virtual Gratitude and Love Mob:)
Congratulations on making it through your first semester of nursing school- a feat that seems literally impossible. I love you very very much and am so proud of you.*
*Though, at some point, we will need to discuss the time you stole my Benneton rugby and lost it. Maybe when you graduate or something. But your not off the hook for that.