Sunday, 3 May 2015

Playing with My Family

Such a delightfully unexpected Saturday I had! My husband planned to take all my sons camping and fishing down at the river about an hour's drive from here. Which meant a weekend alone at home for me. Hubby also discussed taking his sort-of-lover with him and I said it was cool with me. But then came the logistical challenge - one of my sons has been away on rugby tour and would only get back way late in the night and so couldn't go with hubby and the other boys. So I offered to drive him down early the next morning.

So because I was going to be there anyway, hubby invited me to join them in the river rafting tour they had planned for the Saturday afternoon. Now my default mode would have been to say 'No thanks'. River rafting feels scary. White water. Rocks. Chance of falling out of boat and breaking a leg. Or a head. Ugh. And remember, I'm the one who will happily stand on the side of the activity and hold everybody's jerseys and cokes while they play. Taking part in the play is hard for me.

Part of my fear is about physical ineptitude. I have felt clumsy and inadequate for years. I don't have a very strong athletic instinct. And my autoimmune issues, particularly my Rheumatoid, has made me feel even more fragile and not robust. So 'No' is easier to say. At another level, this has been a hard part of my relationship with my husband for years. He is very physically talented and robust, and has not been able to disguise his disdain for my clumsiness and lack of energy and stamina over the years. Before I got diagnosed with these issues, he just chalked my shortcomings up to laziness and a lack of courage. And it irritated him immensely. So whenever we have got together to do physical things like hiking or climbing or river rafting, we have often finished the day in icy silence - he getting more and more critical of me, and me fighting back defensively, feeling so sore after experiencing the lack of care from him when I felt afraid of the physical tasks. I'd be slower, more tentative, clumsier. Drove him insane! Made me feel humiliated.

So over the years it has just been easier for me to just opt out: you guys go along and have fun - I'll just be a burden. See you all when you get back - tell me how much fun you had. The idea of going with everyone and becoming a physical burden that slows them all down and impacts their enjoyment of the activity is just too hard for me. It has been enough for me to enable the adventures of the family without actually participating in them. I felt I didn't have the right, really.

Shrink said NO! She says it's my default mode to marginalize myself when I feel the slightest bit of lack of welcome or invitation. And that this is my family. And that I have a right to be in the middle of it. And if my physical disabilities inhibit some of the things I am capable of, then my family must help me to work around them. I don't need to just exit myself. I must allow them to step up and take me along, and support me. and also give them the space to find a way for them to do some of the more hard core physical things they can only do without me. But it can be a BOTH/AND rather than a EITHER/OR.

So I surprised myself and my husband. When he invited me to join them, fully expecting me to say no, instead I said yes. Just yes. and I showed up in my shorts and T-shirt. And let them organise themselves around how they would manage me on the trip. In the end it was easy: my adult son took me in his boat, and my husband took our youngest son. And our middle son, almost 15, took his own boat.

And it was absolutely fucking awesome! Going in the boat with my very strong son who has been rowing for about a decade meant that I was in the safest hands possible. He is strong and capable. And never once was he impatient with me for doing the wrong thing, even when my steering meant we went down one rapid backwards. My husband would have been shouting instructions and getting pissed off if I couldn't comply. But my son was just cool. And delightful. And gracious. And strong enough to paddle us both down the calm sections when my rheumatoid wrists started protesting about the hard work.

And at one point we pulled off at a rocky outcrop where the river guide then put my boys into technical rapids where they could do some of the stuff I couldn't manage - and I sat on the rocks and so enjoyed watching them learn and play and get dunked and dunk each other - the things they can't do with mom in the boat - they got to do it anyway.

The river guides took the most beautiful photos of the day and sent them to me this morning. I love them. Such an awesome record of me playing with all my boys. and one really beautiful photo of our whole family smiling together after a fabulous day. I think I'm going to print up and frame that one. To everyone else it will just be a happy smiling family snap. But for me it tells a story of my own secret triumph.

The day I had the courage to step up to play with my family.

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