Weather was at the front of my mind as I headed out to the lake for the long weekend in July with four kids in tow while my husband was away working. Temperature, sunshine, rain, and wind speeds affect packing and planning, and perhaps most significantly, our moods. It is so easy to check the forecast, and a little harder to gauge the weather in my internal world.
We parked the car in front of a small rental cabin and I asked the kids to help me unload our stuff. The oldest took the baby, the middle one helped reluctantly while trying to escape between each load, and the little one lifted everything she could. For me, parenting solo is a stretch, and the barometer rises on vacation. As I set the kids free to go play, I unloaded the cooler and checked in on my own forecast.
My assumptions are the single biggest predictor of the weather in my world. If I assume that parenting is primarily difficult, that the kids are trying to make my life harder, or that camping will be exhausting, my assumptions are the filter for reality. If I am unaware of my assumptions, then my understanding of reality can be pretty far from the truth. The cool air from the fridge met a few interesting assumptions: that our sleep would be bad, that I was alone, and that the weekend would be fun.
The forecast on my assumptions depends on the questions I ask of them.
Assumptions about sleep are almost always unhelpful for me. With young kids, my sleep and theirs can be disrupted anytime. Assuming terrible sleep is a guarantee than no matter how the nights go, I will be disappointed, as well as tired in the morning. How can I think about our sleep differently? I can plan to arrive as well-rested as possible, ensure there is some downtime when we get home, plan well for bedtime, and then give us permission to make it through however it goes down. We might need more naps, but we will go with it. I shifted my assumption to sleep will be what it is, and suddenly a rainy weekend is looking more like a mix of sun and clouds.
Isolation is like a well-worn pair of sandals in my world. Anytime I hear myself saying that I am alone, I have learned that I need a reality check. My parents, siblings, children and a myriad of nieces and nephews were with me. What feeds me about the idea of being alone? Too often, I am trying to be a superhero and fooling no one. Help would be offered, and I could ask. I adjusted the assumption to remember that I’m in this with my people. If a storm blows in, we’ll be gathering towels and little people together.
Expecting fun is less negative than the first two, but also worth questioning. Camping with kids is a lot of work, and there can be some less than fun moments. What is it that makes camping with family fun? Most often, it is the surprises we haven’t planned, the way the kids pair up and make up games with sticks, the conversations that happen while we build sandcastles, the memories of retreating from rain. I could assume it would be fun, even if not in the ways I expected. I can stay open to sudden shifts in the weather.
As it turned out, the weekend was beautiful. The sun shone, the wind allowed us to get out on the boat a couple of times, and the beach was great even in the wind. Two nights were excellent and the last was a bit of a mess. I lost my favourite flip flops to the waves the first day on the beach and pulled out a backup pair of sandals. I followed a tiny toddler around a lot, did less dishes than I have done other years, and we all drove home in a rainstorm played out and happy.
The weather in my world depends so much on the assumptive predictors I put in. Adjusting my assumptions can shift both the forecast and my responses to what actually happens. Here’s to a summer with rest and play, sunshine and rain, and grace in what is.