The four of us were a close family before we came to Malawi but this experience has bonded us in new ways. Jeff and I live and work together, rarely going more than a few hours apart in a given day. Claire Marin and Carter’s school days are shorter, home most days by 12:30pm. For better or worse, we have not found or pursued the myriad of extracurricular activities like soccer, violin, brownies that would take up time after school. Evenings are spent playing cards, doing homework, reading or watching movies – often as a family.
And our busy travel schedule means hours upon hours together in the car. This is not to say it’s idyllic; there is still plenty of frustration, shouting and sibling rivalry. But it’s a different pattern than we are accustomed to and one we have come to love.
Claire Marin spent the night at a friend’s house last Friday and at dinner as we went around the table asking what made us sad that day, Carter said, “I won’t get to see Claire for a whole day.” At our house there are not the same ready playmates for Carter but he and Claire – for the most part – play well and long and enjoy one another.
And what could have been a strain on our marriage has been an easy adjustment. All our time together is comfortable. Jeff and I compliment each other, usually balancing one another’s stresses and exhaustion or parental exasperation. I think Jeff bears more than his share of our family burden. I am awed at his resilience and perseverance in the face of it all.
When we go home, I will continue writing and editing. Jeff may pursue some consulting opportunities. Carter will be back at Belmont Weekday School three days a week. Claire is attending some camps and Jeff will be home schooling her since she will miss her third term at Phoenix. And we will be visiting family, friends and communities that have and do support this journey.
So… how quickly will this pace and family togetherness last? In many ways our family and life together have been our greatest coping skill and saving grace in the midst of everything new and different. Maybe some time apart will be a healthy part of returning home as we all rejuvenate, reconnect with friends and passions and instruments.
I have been pleasantly surprised by our ease as a family, living, working and playing together in such close proximity for extended periods of time. Yet another learning and blessing in this call and journey.