Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sad

I walked into his classroom on Monday and saw my little boy sitting by himself reading a book. I could see the dried tracks of tears on his face. I could feel, almost physically emanating from him, his sadness. He (all 60 pounds of him) wanted to be carried out to the car. My boy, my bundle of energy who lives life like it's a competition to get anywhere first, who usually sprints to the car, his beautiful head on my shoulders, slumped in defeat.

On the drive home, I asked him how he was feeling.

"Mama, I so sad." 
"Why, buddy?"
"They took the pictures off the wall. School is ending. I don't want school to end." 

While so many kids around the country are literally bouncing in their seats with anticipation of this Friday or who have already celebrated that last day all the way home in the last few weeks, there are kids like my son. 

Kids for whom school, its regularity, its comforts, its amazing teachers, its friends for the raging extrovert, is everything. Some kids have tough home lives and summer is a long, terrifying unknown. Some, like my son, have a diagnosis that means that any kind of change in his routine causes him actual neurological distress. 

All he could do on Monday was cry. And all I could do was hold him, help him understand that camp is coming next week and try to remember that it's ok. 

I am not a failure as a mom because my boy would rather be at school. It's taken me awhile to be alright with that fact that I am "at home" with my kids but that I have a 3 year-old in school five mornings a week. To know that I am not abdicating responsibility. To be comfortable in the knowledge that I am actually doing the absolute best I can to give him what he needs in all his challenges and gifts. 

On Tuesday he came home sad again. And I knew that we needed to go to his happy place. 

So, after nap, we skipped swim practice and went to Target. Yes, Target is my 3 year-old's happy place. He picked out end of year gifts for his teachers. (And those who know him well will be unsurprised to learn that he chose to give them new water bottles.) We headed to Kid-to-Kid next because he had outgrown yet another pair of shoes and really wanted some new red sneakers. That kid scored some red and white Jordans for 8 bucks. He wore them out of the store, charged home, colored his teachers some pictures and wrote them notes. His smile was back. 

All these rituals. The gifts, the notes...even the buying of new shoes for the summer. They were comforting to him. Things he could do, even at 3, to process saying goodbye. To think about what the summer will hold for him.

And that next morning when he went to school? That child sprinted in wearing his new kicks, hugged the administrators on the way and tackled his teachers with his gifts. 

And they know him so well. 

"Look at your new shoes! Those are amazing! Did you find those at Kid-to-Kid?"
"I did, I did!" 

When I left, there was a little less sadness. A little less clinging. A little less panic. 

Will the next few weeks be hard around here? 


It's ok, though. We are ready.

We are armed with our social story full of pictures of his camp. We have our visual calendar we will do every morning and night. We have our theri-putty and our trampoline. We have our "sensory diet" and our "no drama discipline" to meet him where he is each morning. 

Most of all, we have hugs. Tears are ok. Saying goodbye is hard. I want him to know that it's ok to be sad. That it's fine for him as a boy and one day as a man to FEEL. To be unashamedly who he is in all his chaotic and beautiful and emotional glory.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One Year Away

I can remember pretty vividly a few things about our first year of marriage.

One, when we would meet anyone married more than 5 years, we automatically assumed they had arrived at some kind of marriage wisdom pinnacle.

Two, we had literally no idea what we were doing or who we were as a couple. We just knew we wanted to figure it out together.
June 7, 2003, Right after the ceremony

Three, we spent a lot of time in silence because we didn't yet know how to fight.

And now?

Now we are one year away from celebrating 15 years together in marriage. 15 years, 4 houses, 3 interstate moves, 3 children and countless hours of making the choice, again and again, to say "I will."

I think back on those young people. On how much we didn't know. How we didn't know that he would go back to school and we'd move three times as a result. How we didn't know that we would deal with miscarriage and infertility and come out stronger, by God's grace. How we didn't know we would have to go through the agony of finding a church and a new community (supremely challenging for a couple of introverts) more times that we would like. How we didn't know we would have to learn multiple ways of being parents because of the unique challenges and joys of being an adoptive family. How we didn't know that those hours in silence that first year when we didn't know how to deal with conflict would turn into a faint memory. How we didn't know that it was possible to love someone more 14 years later than we did that wedding day full of love and joy and celebration with all those we held dear.

But we know now.

Marriage isn't easy. It's not all rainbows and unicorns and skipping through meadows of wildflowers. It's not just "Hey, let's have some kids and share our love and grow happily old together." At least not for everyone.

It's a choice. Every single day. To look at one another, say "yes" again, and invite God to help us love that person more than we are capable of on our own.

One of the things I will never forget from our ceremony was the moment our pastor said this:

"You won't wake up every day and look at each other and think "this person is such a blessing to me". You will have to make a decision every day to love."

Our First Dance
We talk about what he said all the time. We remind ourselves that it's not about how we feel in the mornings, but the promise we've made to each other. And that promise usurps everything else. How our kids are feeling and what they need. Whatever else is going on, WE come first in this family. Our marriage has to function for our family to thrive. This reality, I am increasingly learning, is a countercultural way to look at marriage in a very kid-centric America.

So what do I think on this 14th anniversary?

I think that though it is continually about making a choice, I do love this man more than I did on that day 14 years ago. That I have married this incredibly generous person who embodies sacrificial love to me and to our boys. I am reminded every day of his goodness and his light. When I walk downstairs every morning and see him on the back deck, starting his day in prayer, I pause. I can trust him because I know that he is trusting God for what he needs to love me well.

That, my friends, is a miracle. Especially from a recovering marriage skeptic.

I think we don't have any particular wisdom, we just have experience. 14 years and multiple moves and 3 children worth of experience. And that means something. We aren't the same people we were on that rainy day in June. We are so much better.
At UR, June 7, 2003

So, to my love, happiest of anniversaries. 14 years down, hopefully many more to come. Hopefully we will stay put for awhile in this new home, this new town. Hopefully that will give us a much-needed chance to breathe and set down roots and continue to figure out who we are together.

I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.