We nixed all our plans for a crazy, busy summer. Somehow cramming it all in just didn't seem like the best way to prepare for the inevitable chaos of the semester. We decided to take things at a slower pace, just focus on learning to live well. We decided to carve out lots of time for growth and development, for both of us as individuals, and also as a couple. A tranquil, idyllic summer, carefully orchestrated so as best to lay the foundations needed to weather the difficult times to come.

Which is why we've been running from conference to conference, constantly on the road. Umm... yeah.

Actually, it is. Really. Because Wheatstone Academy is just exactly the place to be if you're looking for soul growth. It's a summer program for high schoolers--but unlike any summer camp I've ever heard of. It's the sort of summer camp where you bang your head against Plato, with the help of real live Plato scholars, who, for some reason, want to spend their summer talking to high schoolers. Where you struggle valiantly to sit through hard lectures on epistemology and philosophy of science and historical mathematics.

But it's not just a geeky academic camp, it's also a place where you read the Bible, and think hard about it, surrounded by really smart people who love Jesus with every fiber of their being, and trust Him enough to let you grapple with your toughest doubts. And I really do mean surrounded... last week, the students were outnumbered by faculty and staff.

It's also a place where you go mountain climbing, and listen to excellent music, watch movies and live theater, and stay up til all hours talking and laughing...

In other words, it's a place where you get a taste of what it's like to really live to the fullest, pushing each part of yourself toward a richer manifestation of the image of God, deeply integrated into a powerful community of believers.

Of course, they're only actually paying Andy to come for one evening each week. Eat dinner with the students, give a talk on the nature of mathematics as a liberal discipline, answer a few questions, go home. And of course, we really couldn't afford to do anything more. There's money to be earned, bills to be payed, classes to take, GRE's to study for....

But more importantly, much more importantly, our souls need refreshing. What good does it do us to be on a fabulous trajectory with carreer and grad school and financial stability, if somewhere along the way, our souls fall apart?

So we've been just hanging out there as a family. The first week, Andy felt like he needed to be wholly present from the beginning until his talk, to catch the logos, so to speak. So the kids and I stayed home, and then went up for the day on Thursday. Last week, though, we all squished into a dorm room, ate in the cafeteria, and Andy and I traded off watching kids and listening in on lectures and discussions.

And so it is that our idyllic, restful summer involves an absurd amount of travel, hither, thither, and yon. Last week we were at Vanguard, and next week we'll be at the University of San Diego. And we'll have to take a look at our schedule, because I sure hope that we aren't driving up to Sacramento before the end of the conference. Alas, we planned our family vacation while we were still intending the summer to be far to busy for Wheatstone, and thus much more flexible. Ironic, don't you think?

This week I'm home with the kids, but Andy's at a conference for his normal, school-year, pay-the-bills job, and I'm coming to the conclusion that single parenthood is for the birds. It's well nigh impossible for one person to create a family all by herself. The wuggies, of course, cannot really contribute to our being a real family, all they can do is need it desperately. The relationship between Andy and I forms an almost palpable matrix in which the kids are embedded and upheld. It's easy to take for granted when it's there, but the absense leaves a gaping hole. Oh, how I would hate to do this long term.... I'm simply not enough. And never could be, not really. We'd survive, of course, but not thrive. Because however strong I could be, I could never have a deep, interpersonal relationship with myself. I could never be a family.

But for now, we're having fun. Last night, we all piled into bed together and watched opera snippets on PBS. And today we spent the afternoon and evening with the Koch family. And tomorrow Marcy is going to pick me up from the mechanics, so that the kids and I won't have to spend the whole day at McDonalds waiting for them to finish fixing the AC. Thank God for friends.

And even though I'm never entirely alone--how can I be, when Andy's not here to watch the kids?--still, a strange solitude infuses everything. And that can be a very good thing indeed.

For a few days.

Mostly because I'll be very glad indeed to see him again on Friday.


Anonymous said...

I'm just a casual blog-skimmer, but I must ask: do you know any single parents? What do they think about their families? Have you told them that their children are not thriving, and that the unit they represent is not, in fact, a "real family"? What would you do if you WERE suddenly a single parent tomorrow? Would you think that your children would merely survive until you married again? Maybe I am misreading the entire tone of your post (I WAS just passing through, after all), but maybe there are a few more components to being a family than a father & mother, however necessary they may be to some.

Matthew said...

Hmmm... I think Mr./Ms. Anonymous completely misunderstood what you were trying to say, there. I suspect the last thing you were aiming for was to bash on single parents... I could wax eloquently about the nature of love and family and so forth, but ... once again, this is YOUR blog. =)

Sounds like life's a bit hectic however you go about it. Do make sure there's time to rest, to listen to the Spirit, to listen to your own soul, and to center your heart. It'd be a shame to see a friend and a lovely young lady burn out. ;)

Elena said...

I was NOT bashing on single parents in any way, shape, or form. I'm just saying that they have one !@#$% of a job.

I actually do know lots of single-parent families. That's pretty much the norm where I come from. And sometimes they thrive, sometimes they just barely survive. And sometimes they don't.

Which is, of course, true of any collection of families, in varying proportions. There are a whole lot of factors that go into making a healthy family. Some things (money, a peaceful nation, supportive community, relationship with God, to name a few) make the job of childrearing easier, some things (war, famine, isolation, etc.) make it harder. Having a wonderful husband and father around is definitely one of those things that makes my job a whole lot easier.