The early afternoon sun brightens the kitchen as it shines down through the skylight; I can hear my two youngest children, managing to not bicker and argue their way through Lego Star Wars on the TV, and I'm sitting across the kitchen table from my teacher husband, typing this as he plots out his Socials 8 course for the year.
This is the first Sunday in months that feels normal for us.
When B.C. teachers were locked out and serious labour action began with rotating strikes in late May, life ceased to be normal for us. My husband's satchel wasn't coming home anymore, full to bursting with marking; class prep wasn't happening at the table, and calls were no longer being made to parents.
We were also bringing 10 per cent less into the house in pay, in addition to the day's lost wages each week. When confined to the narrow window of time dictated by the B.C. Liberals through the Ministry of Education and B.C. Public School Employers' Association, the brutal truth of how very much my husband does outside of prescribed school hours for his job came home to roost.
Marking piled up in his classroom, kids that needed help or to make up assignments couldn't get the help they needed; teacher-parent conferences largely didn't happen. My normally gregarious, dedicated husband felt frustrated and stifled by the constraints placed on his ability to teach, to shape minds, and to nurture young men and women to reach their highest potential.
Tempers grew short, as did money; anxiety grew, and we were not our best selves with one another.
That cloud has lingered over our house for almost four months now. We have been quicker to anger, more prone to feeling down, more insular, less affectionate, less patient and it is not who we are. It is who we became because of external factors that have no right to infringe on familial relations like that.
When tempers flared, there was always an apology, a hug, a long talk that repaired the damage, but at the back of my mind, there was always this sense of resentment that some government entity could have so much effect on my home. We worked hard to keep it from colouring how we interacted with each other, but by the first week of September, we found ourselves tying a knot in the end of the proverbial rope and holding on for dear life. And we held on to each other, to family, to colleagues and friends.
And we held the line.
But today is different. For the first time in a long time, Sunday began as it should; getting the kids up and ready, frantically trying to style the youngest one's hair before heading out the door to church; going early into my classroom to set up for Sunday School (I teach, too -- I just don't get paid for it), and spending some time with what centers and grounds us. A few minutes happily chatting with friends over a cup of coffee and delicious home-baked cookies, and then searching the building to collect up our four kids to go home.
This afternoon, I sit smiling as I watch my husband get truly excited about education again; planning how many classes to devote to the High Middle Ages versus the English Reformation, multimedia enhancements to the course material, and getting to be the sounding board for him to bounce ideas off of.
We began the day with a smile, a hug and an "I love you," as we normally do. I was happy to be with my class, even if they were as attentive as squirrels at harvest time. My kids remembered their manners, listened when spoken to, and the big kids were helpful with their younger siblings. We felt like us again today.
And that feels really good.