I realize that I might often sound romantic. Not kissy-romcom romantic. Rather, that my words are idyllic, flowery, sentimental or suggesting an idealized view of reality. Adding color to the mundane with beautiful words and clever phrasing. I never want to be one of those people, whose Facebook wall and blog posts portray a ‘pinterest-perfect’ life. I want to be authentic and honest. And, in all honesty, what I write about is real. At the end of the day or whenever I feel compelled or inspired to write, the way I write is exactly how I choose to see things. Most beautiful are the unlovely moments, I think. Most telling are those instances when no one was saying anything at all.
That is how we measure things on this parenting journey. Even before fostering, raising children together has often meant glancing across a room or table at one another and exchanging a smile or concealed concern. We note silently to one another that this is something we should discuss when little ears aren’t audience. Or we acknowledge together an achievement.
When I gather up the memories of a day, before they slip away and a new day comes, I look at them and sift through with careful eyes. As I process them with written word (sure it might all sound well composed) the little things become more meaningful. I hope their meaning touches someone else, too. Maybe differently for each of us than I could ever have imagined.
On the very first night that the three boys came to live with us, it was both exactly like and nothing like I’d imagined. I had kept this picture in my head for when we adopted (I didn’t envision foster care when this thought first came to mind)—that on the first night that we had someone else’s child sleeping in our home as ours…well, how would I sleep?! A hush would fall over the house and it would be louder to our hearts than ever. We’d peek in and feel full. Then we would smile: nervous yet excited at the reality of it all.
My imagination proved me right. We brushed teeth, donned pajamas, and gathered all six children into one room for bedtime stories. Elated we watched these new littles find a place in our routine. We tucked everyone in with hugs, and prepared for the newest part of our routine—a family meeting with Josh, myself and the oldest boy.
Except this is where my imagination was limited. We were prepared for difficult, well, difficult anything. But bedtime was one of those areas that we anticipated the worst: screaming, an infant without sound sleep, questions, bedwetting, early risers, nightmares. Just as we were about to head downstairs for our family talk, the three-year-old boy began to cry. His anxiety of bedtime in a new house was high. He wanted his big brother not to leave. So, big brother offered to lay with him until he fell asleep.
Josh and I waited downstairs. Ten minutes went by without tears, and we crept upstairs to see if the little one had found comfort enough to fall asleep. We opened the door to see both brothers asleep in the big brother’s bed, little arms draped over the big brother’s chest. I say big, but I was painfully aware that he, too, is still just a child. A child bearing a weight we would carry in a heartbeat. However, we didn’t wake him. Instead, we closed the door and returned to the living room couch.
Wordless, we sat. The hush of a quiet house was thundering in our hearts. When I looked up to meet Josh’s eyes, we were both crying. These little, sweet boys. Their newness to us a gift—our newness to them, unfathomable. Their brains adjusting at a million miles a minute just to survive. We’d thought it through but nothing could have prepared us for the depths of how that first night actually felt. The weight of this journey became a little more clear.
For those first few days, it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. The intensity and pendulum of my emotions, welcome yet crushing. The gravity of their situation so tangible. And then, through prayer and abiding faith, God helped us to make a new normal. His grace rushed in and filled in the gaps as we hit the ground running.
Like I said, sometimes the hardest moments are the most achingly-beautiful. It is as we sit there, sore from the injustices of this broken world yet honored to be a part of its redemption, that I see the beauty and romance of it all. God has asked us into his love story, to bring love and bear hurt for those he adores.
Flowery, maybe? Honest? Entirely. Worth it? A thousand times yes.