“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think interior decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” – Anna Quindlen
F built this bookshelf. By hand. By himself. Over a matter of mere weeks. In case you can’t tell, I am completely in awe.
The first time the nesting whirlwind hit this house, when S was due to arrive, F built a guest bedroom in our basement. My hormonal self needed to know that there would be space for my mom to stay when she came to help us with baby (and space for future guests to always feel welcome in our home).
So he dreamed it, designed it, and made it a reality. As I joked to friends, you could have put me downstairs with all the necessary lumber and tools, and after seven years I still wouldn’t have anything to show you that vaguely resembled what he constructed. Completely in awe.
This second time around, we needed space for stuff (in order to have more space for people). So F dreamed, designed, and built an entire wall of bookshelves to store the ever-growing stacks of theological tomes and children’s books that creep into our home. There is nothing that warms a book-lover’s heart more than a wall of well-loved books. So every time I walk downstairs and see my grad school favorites mixed with F’s engineering textbooks and S’s board books, I smile to myself: this is the lovely blend that makes this family.
But F’s hours of manual labor inside have come at a cost.
Because not only did he want to finish the bookshelves before baby arrived, but I also wanted him to help me purge and rearrange every.other.room in this house. Project after project filled our weekends as we prepared our home to hold one more.
And outside in the garden, the weeds grew wild.
F is one of those passionate gardeners who dreams of planting in January. While I glower at the howling winter winds, he’s buried in seed catalogs. He plans the garden’s rows before the snow has melted, and for months we have tiny seedlings growing in our basement, stretching towards fluorescent lights in the hopes of someday-sun.
I love our vegetable garden, too; don’t get me wrong. But if it weren’t for F’s passion, dedication, and hard work, we would never have one.
Yet this year, he sacrificed plenty of prime planting days for my projects. And as I slowly noticed that sections of the garden went unseeded or unweeded, a nagging sense of guilt began to grow.
How could I steal this time away from his passion? He waits all year to get out in the garden, and instead I have him crawling around the basement, digging out plastic tubs of baby clothes so I can nest?
I began to voice the guilt. I offered to do S’s bath and bed routine so he could get an extra hour of sunlight outside in the evenings. I came up with creative detours around needing his help for the nesting projects I wanted to get done. I even claimed I could help weed – an offer he quickly shot down.
Instead, he smiled and told me it was fine. While the weeds grew taller and taller.
Now that the corner has turned on garden time and we’re beginning to harvest, I can finally help out more. Blanching beans, freezing zucchini, cooking and baking with the fruits of the garden are easy for me to do as I sit in the kitchen. And even though we still have an ample stream of veggies coming in from the garden, we both know it’s not the wild abundance of harvests past. So the guilt lingered in my growing belly.
Until this morning. I was lying in bed before dawn, thinking of how I should start the day with a pick of beans and cucumbers. And as I clumsily heaved my giant belly out of bed, I suddenly realized that while F didn’t get the broccoli or the cauliflower planted this year, there was plenty I had sacrificed this summer as well.
My favorite parts of my favorite season? Working alongside him in the garden. Bike rides around town. Fishing trips and camping excursions. Sipping white wine on an outdoor veranda. Laying on my back in the sun.
Not one of those delights could happen this summer. And while I was busy lamenting the time he didn’t get out in the garden, he was noticing everything that I was giving up, too.
If there is one small truth I know about parenting, it is that the sacrifices never stop. Next year will bring something new: a passion we don’t get to pursue, a trip we don’t get to take, a comfort we don’t get to continue. But my prayer is that each time I open the freezer this winter and pull out another bag of home-grown peppers, I will remember how much F sacrificed for me this summer. Next year will bring my turn to let him dig in the dirt while I chase around two toddlers in the hot sun.
And I hope I can do that with half the grace with which he let the weeds grow this year. Completely in awe.