Today, I was reading an update from my friend Terra whose little girl is fighting for her life. If you haven’t liked her page, you can find it here: Hope For Kendall. If this post does nothing else, I hope that it urges you to pray fervently for sweet Kendall and her beautiful family. However, Terra’s always honest and heartfelt words about struggling to tell Kendall’s sisters about how sick Kendall is and that their planned family vacation won’t include everyone because she has to stay with Kendall in the hospital cut me to the core. She’s fighting so hard with her sick baby and she’s afraid that she’s failing her other girls because she has to be with her beautiful sick princess. Maybe you’ve never had to cancel or change a vacation. Maybe your child’s needs haven’t required you to spend weeks on end in the hospital, but don’t you sometimes worry about the cost of modified life for your other children (or others you may want to have)? I know that I have.
My family, except my sweet husband who can’t get off work but is so sweet to encourage us to go anyway, is planning a fairly impromptu trip to the beach. Now, if you haven’t read MM’s long, you may not know that Brandon and I were foster parents and then adopted 3 children with special needs. You may not know that the only sacrifice of that choice that really hits me deeply as a woman is that it makes travel very hard for us and travel, especially to sandy locations, is one of the great loves of my soul. This trip is a big deal on that level and will be the first time the younger 3 have ever seen the ocean.
Many times, I have thought about what we might have done by now with our biological child if we’d made other choices about foster parenting, adoption, my quitting work outside the home… I’ve wondered if she’d rather have her own room, where would she have traveled, would she have been in private school? Even for my other children, what if we had only adopted one? What if I weren’t so tired because they are never not sleeping simultaneously but in shifts? There are 3 sets of specialists, three types of needs, three sets of worries. Would they have more if things were different? Do they have enough? Am I enough for all of them?
It’s certain that they would have more things. They would have more space, more focus, more trips, more one-on-one attention. However, I know in my heart of hearts that they are exactly the children that I was meant to have. I will never stop trying to be a better mom, but I know that they are loved and they know it too. We are loud, crowded, messier than I would like but we are also happy and bonded and so very close.
My urgency to reassure Terra of the mighty and awe inspiring job that she’s doing forced me to look at my own guilt in the opposite direction. What if there were only one of any of them? Yes, they’d have more things and my intense focus (which could easily have become obsession or over protectiveness) but I doubt they would have me at home when they get up and looking right in their eyes when I pick them up at school. I wouldn’t have left work if I could have done the job of raising them and a paying job as well. They wouldn’t have each other. Despite the sibling spats that accompany any home with lots of kids, my children are very close and they love one another fiercely. They couldn’t know to their core that differences in ability, biology, and race are purely superficial and that, while each person is unique, we are all so very much alike–not on the level that we know it here. They wouldn’t be as independent because they wouldn’t have to be. The fact is, our challenges have made us stronger and better as a family and as individuals.
What I said to Terra; what I would say to all of you with more than one child; what you all can feel free to say back to me in a month (or ten minutes) when I am second guessing again is this: When you attend to a child in crisis or just in the day to day modifications that life with KWSNs bring, you are not failing your other children. You are teaching them strength; strength without bounds that only comes from the love of a parent. You are teaching them the grace of service to mankind. You are teaching them compassion and acceptance of others even when it’s hard–they can see when it’s hard. You are showing them that you will always be there for your children and how they should always be there for their own some day. In short, you are teaching them love and not the Hallmark squishy version of love. You are teaching them LOVE–the verb that means to weather the storms and wipe the wounds (or bottoms) and keep on loving to the bitter end. I would submit that this lesson, taught by the simple act of parenting, is the most important lesson that we can teach our children on their paths to adulthood. In fact, I know it because God said so Himself.
So, to my beautiful Terra, you are an inspiration to me every day. I frequently praise you as a tireless warrior for Kendall but let me also acknowledge the amazing example you are for the other K’s. Keep on keeping on and I’ll keep praying for all of you. To the rest of you MM’s, let me remind you as well that, when it feels like you’re spread too thin to be everything to everyone, you are still their everything. You are teaching, just by living, and someday they will understand. Breathe deep, mamas, you are amazing even when you don’t know it.