If you’d peek into the bay window in front of our house today, you’d see a round black table that seats four. The seats of the chairs are a tan microfiber and no amount of rubbing alcohol (thank you Pinterest for the tip, but it’s only temporary) removes the blotches, smudges, and spill marks, proving we have a houseful of children. The flat surface of this second hand table is typically piled with various loose papers, all important, all from my children’s school. There are enough crayons and markers and pencils laying freely to fill a cereal box, which, if you’d look past the table, you’d see on my kitchen counter. In fact, you might see three—along with another pile of papers, mine, all important laying next to the mixer. Across from that, you’d see the coffee maker lost among countless dirty plates, used cups, and kid-sized utensils which haven’t found their way into the sink nor the clean, not-yet-unloaded dishwasher.
If you took six steps to the right, (but watch your step, I think the kids left some chalk there) and peer through the sidelights of our front door, you’d look into our living room, which you might mistake for the set of a new lego movie shot exclusively from floor-perspective–that, and with all the books everywhere, a very messy library.
I left our little sanctuary called home with everyone in tow, to take the big kids to school this morning. We live no more than a third of a mile from our elementary school, but I’ve taken to driving them, simply to give us a reason to leave the house. We need a routine, and since the rest of our day revolves around saying close to home, this is now part of it.
We’re a little early for drop off, which I don’t mind, because that means I’ve contained all the children in one spot and our house has not gotten messier. I should sit in car lines all day. My two oldest take turns coming to the front seat while we wait in the drop off line, even though they fight about it every other day, as mine/yours/mine/yours lends itself to when it’s between siblings. Phin came up front today.
“When I’m big, I’ll get to sit up front,” Asher says in his four year old voice.
“Well, not until your Phin’s age,” I say, because we only started the coming up front thing this year, and it’s necessary to make everything fair. “Well… maybe you can. You can take turns like Nadia and Phin do when you start school,” I say, conceding it’s too hard with the fairness stuff with the third kid.
“So next year,” Phin declares.
“No honey, two years from now. A year and a half, actually,” I say.
“WHAT?!” my daughter says. “No! He’ll go next year, Mom.”
“No. He misses the cut off by, like, 24 days,” (not that I’ve counted) I say.
“So, I’ll be in 7th grade when he starts Kindergarten?” my oldest asks.
“Yep, and Viv will go the next year, PraisetheLord!”
“So,” Nadia is looking at the ceiling, “I’ll be a freshman in high school when Asher is in 2nd grade?”
I look at the ceiling myself, counting and thinking, and we talk through where everyone will be when, until I throw up my hands and playfully yell in distress, “OH NO! and then you graduate high school and go to college and ohmygoodness—STOP! I take it all back. I changed my mind. NONE OF YOU ARE ALLOWED TO GROW UP AND LEAVE!!!”
Asher and Nadia start to giggle and my oldest son, his blue eyes and buck teeth and orneriness that breaks my heart into a thousand heart-burned pieces outright laughs at me.
I’ve been so serious lately. Life is heavy right now. Adoption and attachment is beautifully hard emotional work and I’m just grateful we could share this small funny moment together.
The car line begins to move and I send my two oldest kids to school with a piece of my heart stuck to to their sleeve.
Today has been good. We avoided major meltdowns. I’m learning our new daughter’s personality and rhythms and she’s learning mine.
“How was the morning?” Chris asks, during his check-in phone call.
“Good. No tears. But I’m already mentally prepping for nap time.”
In the afternoon, I read and rock and sing and rock and because she isn’t crying yet, I keep rocking her in our shared silence. She doesn’t fall asleep in my arms. So eventually, I put her in the crib we’ve used for all our children, except now the front bars are off and it’s pulled right up next to our bed. Our version of co-sleeping. I tuck the stuffed animals in tight. Bunny, Panda, Grover. Then her blankets. She still isn’t crying.
She is, much to my frustration, flicking the two stickers I gave her earlier but now don’t have the guts to take away from her. I lay down on my side on the edge of the bed and offer my hand for her to hold instead of playing with the stickers. But she just looks at it, then looks away. I turn onto my stomach and lay my hand down by her side. I want her to know I’m here, even if she doesn’t want my comfort yet. I close my eyes and count to sixty before I open them. She’s looking at the ceiling. I close them and count again. When I look this time, she’s staring at my face. Slow tears pull themselves from her eyes and walk down her cheeks. I wipe them away with every ounce of tenderness I possess.
“This is hard. You’re doing so good,” I whisper.
She looks away. I still can’t believe she hasn’t started the crying that, up until today, would escalate till it was heart-shredding. I close my eyes again and count. Another layer of my mind thinks about the Legos, the pile of papers, the laundry, the books laying everywhere, the dishes, the writing, the emails I haven’t answered, the phones calls and texts I haven’t returned. Five minutes pass.
I open my eyes. Hers are closed and her breathing has changed. She is asleep.
My first thought is wanting to get up and do everything that’s been pressing on my mind. But then I watch as one lonely tear slides down her right cheek.
I leave my hand where it is, lay my head back down, and close my eyes. I’m supposed to be here. For this.
That other stuff can wait.
…Because some things wont.