Family Life,  Life in Italy,  toddlers

Signs of Hope

This morning marked my first in Rome being truly ‘on my own’ with the boys. We sent Tia home yesterday, and this morning found Joey pacing the apartment bright and early calling ‘Tia, are yoooou?’ while looking under every piece of furniture and behind every door. Poor guy, he has had a lot of goodbyes in his short little life. Here’s hoping the whole multicultural experiment offsets the trauma of repeated separations and prolonged absences from family.

The thing is though, today has been great. And not just because it’s gloriously sunny and 60 degrees, but also because I feel like somebody unscrewed my training wheels, gave the seat of my bike a shove, and…I’m doing it. In the immortal words of Kevin McCalister: “I’m not afraid anymore!”

(If you didn’t get that reference, I forgive you, but you should probably never come to my parent’s house around Christmas time.)

Another huge confidence booster, besides the 3 months of practice runs at navigating this crazy city with my trusty sidekick, I had one of my first ever blog-to-real-life meetups in the form of a lovely dinner out with an even lovlier family who were visiting Rome from Southern California- the Tierneys from Catholic All Year. Kendra emailed me a couple of weeks ago saying she would be traveling through with her husband, her parents, and her 6(!) kids ages 1 – 10, and did we want to meet up for gelato or dinner?

Um, yes. If only to see the looks on the faces of the other restaurant-goers when a table of 4 adults and a million small children walked in. Italians are famously enamored of babies, but I wondered how far that benevolence would carrying in a crowded restaurant on a Friday night.

The answer is very, very far. Particularly if 90% of the children involved were angelic creatures from another civilization populated by clean clothes and table manners. I don’t want to name any names, but a few of the younger diners were less than pleasant by the meal’s end, and it wasn’t the jet-lagged children.

But, but…there’s hope. Here was a lovely, growing young family who had come to Rome to meet their new Holy Father, see the sights and explore the Faith as a family (happy First Communion day, Bobby!), and they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves at a late-night dinner with relative strangers after 15 hours of air travel the day before.

And nobody threw anything at anyone else the entire time. Not even a single slab of proscuitto. It was awesome.

And it gave me a vision into what (I hope) the future could look like. Because more impressive than the well-behaved children and the adorable coordinated outfits they sported was the peace and the joy radiating from the grown-up Tierneys: they actually seemed sane, peaceful, and happy to be parents.

I am definitely the latter, but the former are both debatable at some point every day.

But I’m in the trenches. And I know it. And then I read this on Kendra’s blog after our meetup and I thought, oh gosh, they’ve been here, too. And hopefully some day sooner than later, we’ll be there, where they are. And the pen marks will come off my plaster walls. And people will stop rubbing bodily fluids on each other and on me multiple times a day. And I’ll sit around a big long dinner table and sedately sip (not gulp) from my wine glass while my older children model good behavior for and discipline their younger siblings.

These are the lean years, the investing years, the years where there is never seems to be quite enough patience or good temper to stretch through an entire day, and where every misstep feels like a major catastrophe. The days where I find myself yelling ‘dammit’ at my toddler when he turns the shower nozzle on me, the bathroom, and his (fully clothed) younger brother as I am trying to extract him from his 2nd shower of the morning.

I guess we can only go up from here though. Here’s hoping.

9 Comments

  • Starboard

    There really is some kind of magical tipping point. We seem to have just tipped (in spite of having three kids 3 and under) and it is glorious. I only yell “dammit” once a week or so now, usually at the dog. (It happened when our second child hit 5 and I’m still surprised six months later.)

  • Colleen

    Once my fourth baby turned 2, it was like life was soooooo easy! We loved going everywhere as a family. Everyone slept through the night and that makes for happy parents. Then we added a fifth baby, and you know what, life is still really really good. I think it’s because now the older ones are 10 and 8 and can do so much for the baby that we used to have to do ourselves. It’s good to “know” you are in the trenches and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t really find any light while I was in the trenches and felt like it would go on and on forever.

  • Kris

    I promise. It DOES get better. My youngest is 8 now and we actually go places and do things and people don’t have fits or melt-downs or temper tantrums. I can’t promise that you don’t still have to discipline or “remind”, but I’ve actually reached the place where going out in public doesn’t give me the heebie-jeebies and I don’t get an automatic twitch when my husband even remotely suggests “traveling with small children”. Once your toddler and your baby become the “older” kids, newer toddlers and babies seem to just blend in and become easier. You’ll get there, I promise!!

  • Mary

    Ha! Kevin McCalister! I love to whip out a “You’re what the French call ‘les incompetent'” every now and then. Thank you for this post. With a 2.5 year old and a 3 month old, thinking of these years as “investing years” helps lift the spirits a bit.

  • Diana Anderson

    How cool you met up with the Tierney’s! They are inspiring, right?! Kendra was one of my youth group leaders in high school and her parents and mine are best friends. Small world! Love you Jenny and I am right there in the trenches with you. 🙂

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