It feels as though I have stepped back in time.
This week I find myself without the three big kids at home.
It has just been Ozzie, Tyler and I at home.
Toby and I will sometimes talk about what life will be like in a few years when the older kids will have flown the coop and it will just be us and the boys at home…with perhaps the addition of another adoption treasure or two. 😉 It is hard to wrap our brain around such a reality. I find myself facing the thought with a mix of feelings…
Feelings of sadness but also peace.
Sadness at the thought of a day when the house is more empty than full, but also anticipation for the next great chapter. The closing of one door means the opening of another. It means watching the work we have done as parents pay forth the dividends of the investments made in those early years as we watch our children take flight, marry, have babies, make choices, and pursue passions. It is exciting to imagine the great plans God has in store for each of them. It is exciting to imagine a season when it is just our adoption treasures at home. When we can devote even more time and attention to building that sure foundation that will be a grounding force in their adulthood. They have stepped into an already half written story. They are walking into the childhood and family dynamic that was built around Grace, Molly and Rusty. I am excited for the day when the story is all theirs. Which is not to say I don’t get a little weepy at the thought of each big kid leaving the nest, but I can look forward in eager anticipation to the special memories that will be made when it is just “the littles” (when they are not so little) at home.
I have felt God repositioning my heart and focus lately. I can feel Him preparing me for the next season. I don’t know if have the words to adequately explain the shift I have felt other than to say, I feel him calling me back to the beginning…back to the basics…back to the “littles.”
I look at my big kids and I find myself whispering a prayer of gratitude for the place they are at. They are a delight. I feel as though Toby and I have “done the time” and are now reaping the reward. We are enjoying the fruits of our labor. The days of corrective parenting are coming to a close and we are able to just enjoy our big kids.
We are also moving into a new season with our adopted boys. The hard season of adjustment, testing and hard bonding are coming to a close and now we can begin parenting the “normal stuff.” So much teaching and training had to be put on the back burner as we dealt with the big, nasty, hard…really hard…stuff that comes with adopting a child who has experienced what my boys have experienced. For a long time we were in the trenches just trying to stay alive, well, and intact as a family. I couldn’t even think about working on basic life skills because I was trying to learn adoption survival skills. 🙂
When both boys moved in the goal was to get them to assimilate into the current family dynamics…to make them a part of our current world and include them in our already existing activities. I was a Momma of teens/preteens and was trying to make a spot for the boys in that reality, all while keeping life as “normal” as possible for my bio kids.
Life is now evolving and I can feel God calling us back to the beginning. I feel convicted that my extra time and energy needs to be devoted to that same “active parenting” with the boys that we put in with the big kids when they were young. It is time for us to start building that same sure foundation in the boys’ lives that is now serving the older kids so well. Sometimes this requires tapping deep into the pool of enthusiasm and energy that sometimes runs dry by the time child #5 comes along. It mean praying for presence. It means giving Tyler the same focus and enthusiasm when playing Candyland that I gave Grace when I was 10 years younger and a more energetic, enthusiastic Momma.
It is harder this time around. There are some days I’d love to sit back and simply enjoy the fruit of “round one” of our parenting journey, but that wouldn’t be fair to our two new additions. They deserve and need that commitment I made to the big kids to give the best of myself as a mom…perhaps they deserve it even more so after their early childhood experiences.
And it wouldn’t be fair to Toby and I either.
The joy, the rewards, the relationship, and the blessings of the parenting journey only come when you give it your heart.
Your whole heart.
Your “everything in” commitment.
Your promise to endure to the end.
When I feel weary of the road that lays before me I often think of the story of John Stephen Akhwari and how his inspirational run can be liken to our journey as parents:
“In 1968 a marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari … approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’ For some, the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do” (The Last African Runner, Olympiad Series, written, directed, and produced by Bud Greenspan, Cappy Productions, 1976, videocassette). When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race.”
He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same.”
This week we got a taste of our future and a better understanding of what God is calling us to when Grace, Molly and Rusty packed their bags to be gone for the week. They are house sitting for Toby’s Aunt Beth for the week. When she asked them months ago if they would consider staying at her house while she was on vacation I found that the anxiety I thought I’d feel at such a request never manifested. Instead Toby and I felt great peace about the arrangement. In fact I was really excited for them. I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was a teen.
Last Friday they packed their bags with clothes, computers and all the school supplies they would need for their week of puppy sitting and headed out. I followed them over to help them get settled. Along the way we stopped at the store so they could buy groceries for the week. Beth had given them $100.00 to buy groceries for the week. I was tickled to see how they planned and thought out how they would use the money. They planned out their menu for the week and then went shopping. I was impressed with their choices when I looked in their cart and saw fruits, vegetables and protein. At that age I think my grocery cart would have looked a bit different. 😉
As they walked around Rusty kept track of their balance on a calculator. They knew they wanted to set $15.00 aside to get a pizza one night. When they neared that number they then had to make decisions about what to keep and what could be put back so that they could afford the pizza night.
It was a great life lesson and they passed it with amazing success. I was really proud of them.
Meanwhile at home it has just been the boys and I. It has been insightful to see how the dynamic in the home is affected by the absence of the three oldest. The little boys have had to step up and take on responsibilities that usually fall on the teens’ shoulders. They have had to reach out to each other without other playmates to pick from. Having only two children has also allowed me to focus time and attention on them that normally must be divided five ways. It has allowed me to be an elementary school age Momma for the week rather than the mom of teens, and our activities have been reflective of that.
It has been good…really good.
Heavenly Father has used this week to show me how capable my big kids are,
and also show me where he is calling our focus to be now…for this season.
The marathon is not coming to a close. There are many miles still ahead. So we will run with heart…with all we have to give, because we weren’t called to simply begin the race, we were called to finish it,
and for the sake of these boys we will finish it with honor…
Because we are running for our sons.