I lay in bed and heard footsteps above me, the pounding of feet belonging to kids who don't stop to think of people sleeping below them. There were seven kids in the loft, though it sounded more like seventy. I looked at my watch and saw it was early but not unreasonably so and hoped that someone had gotten up before me to make coffee. I make terrible coffee when we are at the cabin. It's always too strong and I can't figure out why. I adjust the amount of water and the number of scoops and still it is wrong. I left our room and headed to the kitchen and the kids were even louder--booming laughter, shrieks of joy, shouts and exclamations--but there was coffee so I thought I could manage the assault on my morning.
But I couldn't.
I thought about the years that we've gone to this cabin, thought about the kids as babies and then toddlers and now, as such a mix of young and getting older. I thought about the years of unruly noise that has filtered down from the loft and the times I have yelled and demanded and begged for quiet and order. There have been times when I have parented these children with grace and times when I most definitely have not. I stared into my coffee cup, considered my options and then decided to control the only thing I can truly control--myself.
I walked out of the cabin in my pajamas and down to the dock. I sat on the worn wood, damp with dew and stared at the blue of the water and sky, the trees across the lake just turning green. It was quiet and calm and perfect and I realized that the kids aren't the only ones growing up--I am too. My oldest child is almost 14 and it has taken me a long time to learn that so much of life is beyond my control. It's taken me a long time to learn how to take care of myself. But I am learning and this place where I find myself--as a parent in middle age--is like still water, a light breeze and new growth.
We all moved in practiced ways, carrying things in from cars, putting food away, and choosing bedrooms–kids in the loft, adults scattered in the remaining spaces. On the first night, the kids sat in the loft, talking and laughing loudly while we sat downstairs, and I was struck by how much our roles have changed over the years. I remembered Pack-N-Plays and bedtime reading and putting small children to bed over and over again, and they learned to be quiet and sleep near their friends. The adults took turns going upstairs to quiet them, to sing, to rub circles on small backs until there was finally silence.