A Family is a Solar System

Today marks the last full day I’ll be at home without my family. That’s definitely a good thing. A house is a very empty thing when you’re used to having four other people living in it. It’s not been too much fun to be by myself all this time, though there have been a few things I’ve observed in the week and a half.

First off, families take up a lot of time in ways you just don’t notice day in, day out. There are expectations in a family. It’s a team sport, so to speak. There are bedtimes to orchestrate, dinners to arrange, chores to coordinate, and personal goals to achieve. In a way, a family is like a solar system. Each planet has its own set of moons, its own orbit, its own climate and troubles. When things run smoothly, then all is in its right balance, and it all works out. When some of that goes off in an unexpected direction, it can upset everything else.

(Which leads me to wonder, of course, what the family revolves around. While I’d love to say “Me,” that wouldn’t be accurate at all. I think the family revolves around the shared idea of what the family goals are. In our family, it’s a shared sense of responsibility and love. Those are the things that keep yanking us back to gravitational center whenever one of us starts heading off in a new direction. A family that revolves around any one person is more of an entourage than an actual family unit.)

When all those little planets are gone, it’s amazing how easy it is to do whatever you want. It was 8:30, and I needed something from the store, so I just hopped in the and got it. I didn’t need to check with anyone. Didn’t need to worry about abandoning any obligations. I was wholly in charge of my schedule, so I knew what needed doing and when.

I’ve gotten a lot done in the week and a half. I’ve basically done it by making a huge To Do list and then crossing things off it one by one, rewarding myself with video games. I could play another 15 minutes if I got another item on the list done. That sort of thing.) But I’ve also been able to do so much because there’s so much more time available to me. Dinner has been really easy. I just eat cold oatmeal every night. That meant I didn’t have to cook, and I didn’t have to do any dishes. Normally we eat dinner as a family, taking time to watch something together or talk together. But I just ate whenever I felt like it, usually pairing it up with a quick video game session.

So many of the obligations of a family come on you one at a time, spread out over years. Marriage. Children. Home ownership. When I go away for a conference I don’t notice those obligations being gone, because there are plenty of other things there to keep me busy. The same is true on vacations. But when the whole family leaves at once, you can’t help but notice it.

It’s pretty lonely.

But that’s done now, for the most part. I’ve got a ton to get ready before I leave. This is likely my last blog post for a while, as I’ll be off gallivanting around Europe. There’s a chance I’ll pop in here and there to say something, but it’s doubtful. Have an excellent rest of your summer, and I’ll see you toward the end of August!


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