Right now, we have no dining room table. We have two oversized chairs and a folding camping chair in our living room. The four of us are sleeping in two queen beds… in the study. My kitchen counter has power tools all over it. In fact; everything has power tools all over it.
We don’t live in my beloved Grand Rapids anymore. We don’t live in our cute house with a cute little yard in the city anymore. We live out in the country, between two lakes. We have some land, and trees, and space.
It’s really weird…
It was my Dad’s house. My Dad, who many of you know from reading this blog, is one of the most important people in my life. He took care of us as a single parent after my Mom died. I was 16. He was 44. The older I get and the further I get in my parenting journey the more I understand how difficult that was – and how tremendous his love for us is. He was the first fan of my blog, and gave me my sense of exploration and travel; and taught me the importance of citizenship. In many ways, the core messages of my blog come directly from him.
My Dad died this winter. It was sudden and unexpected and excruciating and painful and shocking and unbelievable. Seven months later I am barely able to write that without crying. It’s still really hard.
Right before my Dad died, we decided to attend this amazing trip from called Family Forward. I had several friends who had gone last year and they highly recommended it as a family trip. I signed us up – and had planned for my Dad to come with us. He often joined us on our excursions and I thought it would be a perfect way to take HIM on a trip rather than the many, many times he took me.
After he died we considered not going. Would it be just a big reminder like everything else that my Dad was gone?
Ultimately we decided we still needed to go – and brought someone in my Dad’s place; my sister! It is called Family Forward, after all. When we arrived in Orlando we all got name badges. They must have been created based on the original participant list, because one was created for my Dad. This might sound macabre, but my sister took it and wore it; we all felt somewhat comforted by it and had no doubt that Dad was there with us.
Going was not a mistake. It was an incredible vacation and one that made me realize despite a crazy housing situation, abrupt changes like new schools and a new house and not having any friends yet – my kids are OK. We are raising them in a way that lets them roll with it. They know they are safe, they know they are in a family who will take care of them and have very, very imperfect parents who love them the best they can.
We spent time with other families; kids who bickered and whined and parents got impatient and frustrated and who we so clearly trying to do their best it brought tears to my eyes. We all came together and learned the importance of a family dinner from Barilla, satisfied the kids’ natural sense of curiosity about animals with Animal Jam, learned about what makes airplanes fly from Southwest Airlines,
and rode the rides and took in all the entertainment at Universal Orlando.
I asked my Dad once if I was the same kind of parent my Mom was. He said yes; in that I am a deliberate parent. I think anyone who was with us at Family Forward was the same way – deliberate. Conscious and conscientious. Intentional and, well. Focused.
I am blessed by this organization and that is not a word I used lightly or even frequently. Family Focus isn’t just a trip; it’s a way of life. It’s part of Mom It Forward which helps support families in bonding, growing, traveling, and togethering. Yep I just made that word up but it fits. So many of you would have fit right in on that trip; I encourage you to look at all of the free materials Family Focus has put together for you to use with your own family.