The other night I pulled into our driveway after a dinner and movie with some girlfriends, and I took this picture from my car. I love the sight of a home decorated in holiday lights. When it is my home all lit up, it fills me with happy (and the urge to take pictures in the dark). I think that no matter how cold it is outside, it will be warm and safe inside. I’ll walk through that door and there will be love on the other side – not to mention two little boys full of excitement because Christmas is drawing closer.
It made me think about how that is exactly what I want for my boys – to see our home and always be certain, way down deep in their bones, that crossing that threshold means walking into a place that is warm and safe and, simply, home. I want it to a place that they know there is a soft place to land, no matter what, and that they are loved, truly loved, just as they are. They will always be good enough. They will always have a shoulder to lean on. Inside our home, there will always be someone with whom they can cry until they laugh or laugh until they cry. No matter what the world throws their way, they can walk through that door into their fortress. We all need that fortress, don’t we?
Years ago I watched an episode of day-time talk TV that stuck with me. The episode documented some type of high school intervention, where a select group of “cool kids” and “outcasts” and even teachers came together in an effort to enhance empathy and understanding of one another. One activity involved all of the kids standing on one side of the room and walking across an imaginary line if they could relate to various statements: “Have you ever been bullied by a teacher?” “Have you ever felt left out?” and so on. But what got me was how many of the kids were dealing with such burdens at home and felt alone. So many of them didn’t feel safe at home or didn’t have an adult they could open up to or questioned whether their parents were proud of them.
When I was pregnant with Zip, I wrote him a long letter promising that home would always be a safe place where he would be loved, simply for who he is. That was so easy when he was a baby. Babies’ needs are so simple, so easy to meet – warm arms, food, love. Well, okay, it doesn’t always feel simple at the time. But for me, babies were so less complicated.
As kids get older their personalities become stronger and they have ideas of their own and it starts to feel so messy sometimes. I could see how families end up in these awful patterns without ever meaning or wanting to, and how parents could love their children so so much yet still have such problematic relationships with them. It’s a slippery slope. I’ve stood at the top so many times, found my feet losing traction, and desperately dug in my heels as I pulled us back.
I know that there is no perfect. That house that looks so beautiful on the outside is probably a whole lot messier on the inside. I know there will be times I lose my temper or tell Zip he is driving me crazy right now or walk away from Bee while he chases after me and cries for me not to leave (because, you know, I need to go grocery shopping or this family isn’t going to eat). I just hope that there are more hugs than screams, more laughs than tears, and that somehow we keep coming back to light and love.
I keep reminding myself of that letter I wrote to Zip six years ago and that image of a cozy home at the holidays, trying to keep this mission of mine in mind: Home will be safe. Home will be love. I imagine my boys, 20 or 30 years from now, showing up on our doorstep for the holidays, suitcases in hand, maybe with partners by their sides and babies in their arms, and I hope at that moment their hearts are full, knowing that they have come back to a place where they always, always belong.