VACATION! I love vacation! Stepping away from the demands of life to just enjoy being together as a family!
This year we chose to do a BIG vacation because it is our last year with our son before he leaves to serve a two year mission for our church. We chose a Disney cruise vacation.
It was filled with precious memories … and not so precious memories.
The second night, as we walk along an upper deck, we decide to take a quick family selfie. All of us squeeze into the frame. Suddenly, my tween is yelling at her older brother for bumping her head. She is not quiet. This is a full-voice holler. Then we try again. Not even ten seconds into our second effort at a family picture, my tween is again yelling, this time at her younger sister for stepping on her foot. My husband walks off, visibly irritated. The snapshot of our happy moment has now sunk into chaos as everyone tells off the tween. After all, it’s just a picture! Quit ruining it by squalling every time someone bumps you!
I walk across the deck to cool down, with my oldest and younger daughters trailing behind. My husband and son walk in another direction, while my tween, now thoroughly chastised, stands at the rail. As I watch her shoulders hunch over, I can almost visibly see her collapse in on herself. She needs love. As unlovable as she has just acted, she needs love. I whisper a prayer to myself, “Please, help me to know how to reach her. She’s just so easily angered!” The quiet voice of the Lord’s Spirit answers my heart, “She needs to know that she, too, is a cherished member of this family.”
Suddenly, I see in my mind the scene that had just occurred from her perspective. How isolating and lonely she must now feel. The bumps and toe-stepping that are a part of life are, in fact, extra painful for her. How could I have forgotten? Then to have every family member tell her off, before walking away, leaving her standing all alone … there are times I feel like a failure as a mother, and this is one of those moments.
I ask my daughters to stay where they are as I walk over and quietly speak to my sweet Snugglebunny. I share how sorry I am that we were not more sensitive. I share how I understand the feelings of loneliness she must be feeling, but that she is so very, very loved. She comes closer and snuggles into my arms, tears streaking down her face and my own.
As we embrace, I pray she will know that she is cherished by each of her family members.
The next morning, our sweet Snugglebunny wakes up complaining of a tummy ache and too many trips to the bathroom during the night. During breakfast, she begins to look flushed. She is clearly not feeling well. We visit the doctor onboard. He tells us she has a virus and has to be quarantined for the safety of the other passengers for 24 hours.
My sweet girl will miss an entire day’s worth of activities and has to be confined to our cabin? Someone will have to stay with her. In our family, when someone is sick, that means Mom gets caring-for-sick-person duty. It’s written somewhere in my Mom-contract. You know, the contract parents subconsciously write once the first child arrives? There is a Dad-contract as well. In ours, Dad gets to declare it a pizza night when it’s been an especially difficult day! So, in the beginning of parenting, I took the caring-for-sick-person duty. After all, as a mother, I am the nurturing one, right?
So, I help her to change into pajamas, settle into bed, and set-up to watch Disney movies for the entire day. Meanwhile, the entire family is scrubbing themselves down as though prepping for surgery, per the doctor’s orders: LOTS of handwashing.
Then my husband informs me that I will be taking the kids for the scheduled bike ride around the island and he is staying with Snugglebunny. When I protest, he quickly kisses me and informs me, “I am her father and she needs to know that I am here for her too. Go.”
So I did. Biking around the island, we see tiny lizards everywhere and gasp at the turquoise beauty of the water. My adorable 9-year-old defiantly challenges her 17-year-old brother to a bike race and his laughter rings out as her look of fierce resolve shows how earnestly she wants to win. She loses. But, oh! How sweet to see him glance back at her with such a look of happy, naughty encouragement! He laughingly kept just far enough ahead of her that she thought she had a chance to win as she determinedly pumped her legs faster and faster, then he lazily pushed ahead to claim victory.
As I slowly biked behind them and looked at the gorgeous scenery, I realize how selfishly prideful I am. Here, I take all the responsibility for caring for sick kids, as though somehow I was born with a doctorate in health care. When, in truth, I know no more than my husband does! I realize that I want my children to need me, to depend on ME and ONLY ME for their every need. But that is wrong.
As I continued pedaling and thinking, I realize how many sweet memories I have from being one-on-one with one of my children when they weren’t feeling well. Memories of reading books aloud. Memories of snuggling them and knowing that they were more comfortable because I had given them juice. Suddenly, I realize that Heavenly Father has presented an opportunity to answer my prayer of the night before. My sweet Snugglebunny needs to know that her family is here for her, that she is a cherished part of our family. She needs to know that she is beloved by each and every family member.
I call a quick counsel with my kids on the beach and we agree that their sick sister needs to know that all of her family members support her. We head back to the ship and begin a day’s worth of rotations. First one family member, then another will spend a few hours with our sick passenger and make sure she is constantly surrounded by love.
Our youngest changes into pajamas and climbs into her own bed to express true empathy with her big sister’s illness as the rest of us grab phones and head out to enjoy activities. We come back to big smiles and many Disney drawings!
Next all of us dress up as pirates, including our sick Snugglebunny. She and her older sister happily chatter away together as the rest of us go off to enjoy a magic show.
Then my son enjoys a room service dinner and movie with his sick sister.
Finally, I snuggle down to enjoy some cuddling and laughter as the others head off for a dance and fireworks display.
My prayer of the night before has been answered in an unexpected way. Each of us stepped up and served. So easily, I could have taken the role of caretaker for the day. I wouldn’t have minded. A good book, room service, and snuggling are a vacation to this mother!
But my sweet husband saw a better way. Our Snugglebunny needs to know that she has an entire family supporting her in times of difficulty.
As we kneel together for family prayer at the end of the day, an increased feeling of love is in attendance. An added sweetness to scripture study is present as each family member has truly followed the Savior’s admonition to “Love one another” this day.
I could have fulfilled my mom-contract and done it all by myself; however, had I done so, I would have robbed my family members. Our sweet Snugglebunny saw the sacrifice, willingly made for her, by each family member. What an incredible gift for her to draw upon the next time she feels lonely! Since then, I have heard laughter shared over private jokes that refer to moments shared together during those vigils of care.
The Lord gives us opportunities to serve each other along the path of life not as jobs to be done, but rather as opportunities for us to build friendships, deepen relationships, and come to truly love one another. How grateful I am that this is so.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.