I (accidentally) zipped through Meagan Francis’ Table for Eight last week, a book about living as a large family in a small family world (irrelevant aside: ended up on my Kobo because I thought it was a “big cook” cookbook–you know, recipes up-sized for large groups?). We’re not really a large family–three kids, two adults, one small, but troublesome dog–but most of the time, I have an extra kid or two or three in tow or in the house–and many of the families we spend most of our time with are three or four or more kid families, so there were many parts of the book that resonated with me on some level. And some parts that I experienced purely as a voyeur, sometimes rather glad it wasn’t me having to figure out how to sort eight kids between three bedrooms… and sometimes regretful that Ender won’t have a sibling close in age to bunk with.
My favourite line from the book:
“Surrender to motherhood … but don’t give yourself up entirely.”
I found that quote, and Francis’ entire “Time for Mom” chapter quite in synch with my thinking around family time, self-actualization and family harmony.
Another tidbit that really resonated with me (and then had me pondering, “But what does this say about me, really?”) was this:
Part of the way I keep my life simple is by gravitating toward emotionally healthy, stable people who don’t pick fights with me or each other. … The way I look at it is this: I spend a lot of time with emotionally immature people: my children. They’re still growing and learning about social interaction, and it’s my job to help them. I just don’t have the time to deal with emotionally immature grown-ups, too!
(Although, I have to confess, I sometimes see this as a character failing in myself. Am I just too selfish and intimacy-averse to enter into your latest drama? To offer you the support you crave? I don’t know. Perhaps. But as a result, I’m pretty balanced, stable and undrained myself, so if that’s what selfishness looks like, so be it.)
The best lesson from the book, which took me almost 10 years and three kids to figure out:
I was at a family party where the food was laid out buffet-style… I filled a plate for myself, sat down, and ate, and then called them to the tabe.
“What kind of a mother feeds herself before her children?” my grandmother asked.
“A full one,” I retorted.
I’m not extrapolating this one to anything other than food: read nothing else into it, but take the food lesson as it is. It took me almost 10 years of cold coffee, half-chewed food, food thrown into my mouth as it was leaving the table, after-thought meals that weren’t really meals, to learn to eat well, regularly–and often before feeding the children. Now I eat first whenever I can (with babies, nurslings and toddlers, it’s not always possible, but one must seize the moment). I eat well. And everyone’s happier. (Including the thinner and more energetic me.)