Catching up: family time

Part II on the catch up posts. Been trying to get this stuff down before I forget, but not enough hours in the day lately!

These past few weeks have been exhausting and tough. But there were also unexpected wonderful highlights. The biggest change for me has been my new understanding of our family and being able to see them in a new light.

(A little background: The Man and I are from the same small hometown. Both of our parents still live there. We moved away in 1994 and since then, haven't stayed more than a week at a time. This visit, although for sad reasons, granted us two solid weeks of family time. It's made it all the more apparent that we need to find a way to see them more often. It's also left me feeling terribly homesick.)

This was Little Man's first time meeting most of our family. We hadn't made the cross-country trek yet (couldn't bear to travel again!) so he'd only met a handful of folks (my parents and The Man's mother/brother/family) who had come out to Milwaukee. He had yet to meet the rest of the huge clan and he did it with his usual unabashed style. He is rarely shy and if he is, it only lasts a few minutes before his curiosity gets the better of him.

He jumped into things very quickly. He's a coper, that's for sure!

He seemed to recognize and be immediately comfortable with my parents. (We iChat every weekend--guess that really helps!) He especially loved hanging out with my dad, AKA his Papa. (Could it be because Papa lets him get away with everything???) Grandma tried to steal as many kisses as possible, which he didn't mind.

LM also LOVED spending time with his cousin. She's actually his second-cousin, I think (what do you call your niece's kid?) and she's only 5-months older than him. They are a lot alike. Both super high energy and love to run. It was so fun to watch the two of the together! I think they wore grooves in the flooring from the kajillion circles they made around the living room.

Lots of my family came to my parents to see LM over the course of the two weeks. And on The Man's side, tons of family were coming into town for Grandpa's final days, so there were many people to meet at the other Grandma's house too.

So many great memories from these past few weeks: the overwhelming happiness I'd feel to see LM sitting contentedly on my dad's lap; the joy on LM's face as he jumped into the melee of cousins doing sprints around the house; watching the adult cousins patiently follow him through his tours of the nursing home (and give us a much-needed break!); watching great-grandpa perch on the edge of a chair so he could play some game LM made up with the coasters (to which we never really understood the rules); seeing LM pat the hand of Grandpa during his final days; I could go on and on. He loved the cacophony of family at The Man's home too, and had a blast with his teen cousins who doted on him.

I learned the pride a mama feels as she shares her children with the world, and especially with family. I'd never really felt that before. I loved sharing the joy that is Little Man. His smile lights up a space, or as his great-grandmother says "he has a smile that could melt snow." I felt such a feeling of happiness to see the excitement of our family as they got to know him.

I can't stop thinking about this since we've been home. I saw sides of my family members that I hadn't seen before---maybe because I was seeing them through LM's perspective. But I believe that seeing how people treat your child gives you more insight to who they are.

Mostly though, I realized that LM's relationships with each person in our family are unique. And to watch those relationships grow is one of the gifts of parenthood. We wouldn't have been able to watch that happen if we weren't home for such a long period of time.

As much as LM belongs to our family (theoretically speaking---I don't mean it like we own him or anything), I begin to understand that they also belong to to him. They will help him learn and grow and experience life in ways that we can't. Each person he spends time with adds more to his understanding/love of our large family, but also contributes to who we are as an immediate family.

That realization makes me start to acknowledge something--being so far away from our family is going to be even more difficult now that we are a threesome.

So, even though our time home was sad, I left there feeling full. Knowing that Little Man was loved. By so many. Truly loved. And welcomed. And that means everything to me.

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