I took my kids to the pet store today. My eight-year-old, Grace, and her nearly three-year-old brother, David, had to stop in front of every fish tank and birdcage until they saw the bowl of sample dog biscuits. “Whoa Mom!” Gracie said. “Look at this! Can we take one home to Lucy?” Lucy is the reason we were at the pet store. She has inflammatory bowel syndrome and I needed to find her yet another dog food to curb some of those issues. David picked up a biscuit and squealed, holding it close to his chest for safekeeping. I asked if he wanted me to put it in my pocket and he shook his little hand in front of me saying, “No, no, no.” Okay, I get it. You want to hold the biscuit.
We walked to Gracie and Kate’s favorite lunch spot where David continued to hold the biscuit. “Why don’t you put it on the table?” I asked.
“No, no, no, Mom,” he said.
I drove to the grocery store and for a moment I thought the world had ended because David erupted in screams and tears in the backseat. It turns out he had dropped the biscuit. At least he didn’t overreact or anything. He scurried out of his seat when I parked so he could find that precious gem and carried it through the store. He even turned down the free samples of pudding because he didn’t have a hand to hold the cup and another in which to eat it. “It’s pudding,” I said. “I can hold the biscuit.”
The sound of a pterodactyl came from the shopping cart but on closer look it was only David clutching the biscuit close to his navel. “He doesn’t want the pudding,” Kate said. No kidding. We made it home and David bounded up the garage steps to open the door. Lucy greeted him and David shoved the biscuit into her mouth. I don’t think she even bothered to chew it but swallowed it whole in the excitement.
David wrapped his arms around Lucy’s neck and rested his head on hers, beaming. The gift had been delivered. Someday, I hope I’m as determined and enthusiastic in my relationships.
I took the unconventional way to children and adopted all of them. I don’t look at it as my plan B or last-ditch effort to have kids but as my destiny. I’ve known women who have said, “My husband and I are going to try to get pregnant this month.” And they do! These are the women who also plan how many years apart their children will be and it happens just as they plan. I’ve never really cared for those women. Their lives are as tidy and organized as their drawers.
My life isn’t neat or organized and I can thank my children for that. They’re great balancers and have a way of keeping things real and grounded. Kate and Gracie were recently playing in the kitchen as I made dinner and Kate revealed how awesome it would be if we had a maid like Cinderella. “We don’t need a maid,” Gracie said to her. “We have Mom.” It’s always good to know one’s place.
In Finding Grace: A True Story about Losing Your Way in Life and Finding it Again, I write about when Gracie and Kate were playing Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel in the kitchen. At some point the story took a wrong turn, which seemed inevitable considering they are two different stories. As it frenzied to a head I heard Gracie say, “Who cares what you think, Kate?” and Kate began to cry. I took Gracie by the hand and led her out of the room.
“What did you just say to your sister?” I asked. She didn’t respond. “What did you say to Kate?”
Her voice was just above a whisper. “I said, ‘who cares what you think.’”
“Were those kind words?” I asked. She didn’t answer. “Were those kind words to say to your sister?” She burst into tears. I held up her chin to look at me. “What do you need to do?”
“Apologize to Kate,” she blurted between sobs.
After a while Gracie made her way back into the kitchen where Kate was now playing with a puzzle. Grace was composed as she walked to the table but the moment she saw Kate and I she began crying again. She crawled up onto my lap, looked at Kate and blurted out something indistinguishable as she sobbed. I couldn’t understand a word she said. Kate looked at her and in one breath said, “I forgive you, Grace. What’d she say, Mom?” Kate had no idea what her sister said but it didn’t matter. She had already forgiven her. Someday, I hope to forgive like that.
Our house would be terribly quiet and lonely without these little bodies running through it. Kate tells me at least ten times a day how much she loves me. She wears me out with her constant negotiations for candy but she’ll follow it up with, “I love you even when you say I can’t have candy.” A week or so ago she asked if she could have strawberries and I told her we didn’t have any. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I’ll just have candy then.” When I told her she couldn’t have candy she said, “When I’m a mother and have a daughter named Kate, just like me, I’m going to give her all the candy she wants and I’m going to let her play all day long.” Someday, I hope to have a positive outlook even when things don’t go my way.
Without my children I would have missed out on some of the greatest moments in history. Gracie used to yank her shoes and socks off and say, “Welcome home feet!” and David wakes up each morning smiling and says, “I seep good.” Someday, I hope to get up just like that.
My husband tolerates Lucy with her inflammatory bowel issues but David is crazy for that black, shaggy dog. A few evenings after we got Lucy, Gracie called me into the living room saying, “Mom! There’s poop in here.” There was a trail that stretched from one end of the room to the other. “Here’s some,” Gracie yelled from the dining room. “Here’s some more,” she said from the hallway. It was the worst scavenger hunt I’d ever been on.
My husband said none too quietly that we needed to give Lucy to another family. Gracie snapped her head up and said, “But Dad, we can’t give her to another family. We adopted her. That means she’s ours forever, right?” Someday, I hope I defend the messy and intolerable with the same sense of compassion.
I didn’t get children the way I had planned. As a matter of fact, none of my dreams turned out the way I had planned but as my children romp through our home and I know that even tonight our girls will crawl into our bed in the wee hours of the morning, I’m grateful that they didn’t.