Saturday, June 29, 2013

An Only-Child Mama

I see you watching us at the park. You are wondering if he's my only child or if I have older children in school somewhere or perhaps a baby that's home napping with a grandparent. I don't. He's it. And it's ok. 

I hear you on the playground at church, "Is he your only one?" and I know you don't say it with any kind of judgment, but in a culture where baby-making seems to be everyone's Saturday night hobby, it feels like it. Like having only one kid is somehow an affront to American Christianity. And maybe it is. But I'm pretty sure it isn't to God.

I feel you wondering what I do with all the extra time I must have with only one kid. Oh, you mean that time outside of my job, parenting a six-year old, assisting with Sunday school, leading worship, coaching 17 6-year-olds in soccer, volunteering in kindergarten, driving carpool, studying for my psychology class, taking adoption trainings to keep our home study updated, being a wife to a husband writing a dissertation, executing a move to Wisconsin and figuring out how to plan a family menu when I'm sugar-free and gluten-free. Right. Oh, well I guess I just sit around and gaze at my navel all day long.

I don't write that to sound snarky. I actually write it to say that my life is pretty full. I didn't choose to have an only child. Some people do and that's great. Some people, like us, have it thrust upon them due to circumstances beyond their control like disease or loss or infertility.

But here's the deal. Each day that goes by without another child in our house is another day I get to treasure with my little man. It's another day I can be involved in his life with less distraction than I would if I had a newborn in my arms. That's not to insult parents with lots of kids, it's just reality. I wish I were you. But I'm not. So I'm finding my own ways to savor the different path our life has taken from just about everyone around us. It's hard to find other moms of only-kids, at least in America. I suspect I would not feel as alone in this in a place like Europe. But, until my husband gets an amazing job at Oxford or something, America it is.

So I will continue to plan long car trips to fun places knowing that I only have to worry about one kid who is actually a pretty darn good traveler. I'll continue to structure my day without worrying about naps and sign him up for whatever I want to sign him up for because I'm not trying to juggle 3 or 4 kids' schedules. I'll continue to enjoy multiple hours in every day where we get to talk and giggle and read and build legos without someone else needing me, other than our ridiculous dog who seems to think he is, indeed, a human child. I'll soak in our bedtime ritual, where all four of us cram into Josh's little twin bed to read and pray and cuddle and talk about our day together. I'll take it one day at a time and revel in the uninterrupted time I have with my first born.

Some day, I hope in my heart, that this time when we are just three will be a memory, albeit a sweet one. I will have spent much of our time together wishing for more children and my son will know about some of that. He wants siblings just as much as I want him to have them and we talk honestly in our family about the waiting. It's alright for him to see his parents desiring for our family to grow and for him to express his frustrations with the process. But I never want him to believe that we had to grow because he was not enough. The grand truth is that no one person, nothing in this world is really enough for us except God. But in the smaller scheme of earthly happiness, the son I have been given is enough. I am so grateful for my little man and if it were ever time to give up fighting for another baby, we would do it. We would move on in thankfulness for the gift we've been given in him. We would still be a complete family even if we looked out of place in church. We would not be lacking.

So, this only-child mama is going to grin right back at you on the playground. I'm going to be as nice as possible when you ask me intrusive questions about my family, but I may be more honest with you than you are expecting. Maybe you'll know in the future that not every family needs to look a certain way and that having an "only" is not necessarily a bad thing. I am going to look you straight in the eye and tell you that I'm happy, that I love my son, that I don't know if there are more children coming but that no matter what, we are a family with a life that's full and chaotic and joyful, just maybe in different ways from yours. 

I am an only-child mama and it is good.    

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ten Years of Life As We Know It

I sit here surrounded by mountains of boxes as it pours outside. The fridge is almost down to bare bones. The child is finishing up his last day of kindergarten. The other child, my sweet honorary 18 month-old niece, is asleep in the nursery that has still never been used for our own child as her parents travel to a wedding this weekend. I am glad she is here, the house feels fuller. Later, we will meet friends for lunch, say goodbye (again), go to J's doctor to get some adoption paperwork done and then meet different friends for dinner tonight to, you guessed it, say goodbye. My son and husband have a prior fun overnight engagement so I will sleep alone tonight. On my 10th wedding anniversary.

This is life. There will be no fireworks today or any fancy dinners out. There will be no dropping of the child at a distant grandparent's home to take a quick weekend away to celebrate. There will just be a quiet remembering, even in the midst of packing that 100th box and probably being cranky with each other or, for the first time in years, changing diapers, cutting up grapes into tiny pieces and wrestling into car seats. There's a quiet buzz in the air. 10 years.

I can remember those couples we met early on who were past the 5 year mark and thinking that they seemed like experts and now here we are at 10. Yet, we are clearly no experts. I can remember what we thought ten years would look and feel like and what we'd do to celebrate. Things generally don't turn out anything near what you expect, do they? Instead of flitting off to have a second honeymoon, we are in the midst of moving across the country. A different kind of adventure. I thought we'd be settled by now, in the house we would be in for the long haul with lots of (read 2 or 3) children around the house. But as I've grown up with this man, the excitement of his adventure has rubbed off on me. Settling, after all, is vastly overrated. I may not be moving to Wisconsin to pursue my own dream(since I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up), but it's definitely a chance to continue to explore, continue to figure what the dream even is. And, frankly, to do the figuring in much lower humidity. No small thing, my friends. No small thing.

But here is why we don't need the weekend getaway or fancy dinner tonight. Those are definitely perks, certainly fun and good and, hopefully, eventual celebrations to recognize this landmark. But for today to look like any other day, and to be, in fact, slightly more chaotic than usual with a second child in the house and too many events in our schedule on top of moving, gives us the chance to remember the day we said "we will" as we live out what 99% of this marriage thing actually looks like. Most if it isn't glamorous. Most of it is waking each day, choosing the "we will" for the 10,000th time, knowing that without God we'd make a huge mess of it anyway, confidently mucking through even the days that are filled with tension or anger or chaos because we've chosen to muck through it together, good or bad, settled or adventuring, whether we get to celebrate the big moments when they happen or not.

So, love, happy anniversary to you on this warm, rainy summer day. We were married on a day just like this in Richmond ten years ago, full of questions and hopes and knowing we were saying yes to the hardest thing we'd ever do. As we move into this new adventure, I can only dream of where we'll be ten years from now - it's all too uncertain. I can hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll get to go somewhere fantastic to celebrate that anniversary. But what I do know is this: I know that we will still be making that quiet choice each morning to turn towards each other and fight for the vows we made so long ago.