September 29, 2014
I wish I had been prepared to experience the Barbie ‘Step Into Reading’ books. Those things are just awful. They are all about dolled-up beauties with no personality who have wonderful things magically happen to them for no good reason. They’re the worst. And she loves them.
I wish I had been prepared for HOW MANY things would be like those Barbie books. There is a whole lot of girl-oriented media out there that I am not a fan of, but that she came to us loving. So we read a lot of inane books, and I hear a lot of shrill, over-excited voices coming from the shows she watches. And I (and others) keep gently suggesting other options, and she is slowly accepting them.
I wish I had realized early on that she will eat almost anything if it has ketchup on it. That would have spared a lot of dinnertime grief!
I wish I had remembered those statistics on how many words a day girls use versus how many boys use. Studies and opinions on the subject differ, but an often-cited number is that girls use three times as many words per day as boys. I don’t know if that is true for the population at large, but it is certainly true in our house. I thought my boys were chatty, but compared to this girl, they are men of few words. There is So. Much. Chatter in our house now.
I wish that I was more careful with MY words (I’m a girl too, you know, and I have words aplenty). She seems hard to get through to, but she’s not. She is obstinate, but not deaf. She hears my words, good and bad, and she takes them to heart.
I wish I had been more willing to accept my own authority with her from the get-go. It’s hard with a new child who is a stranger to you. And it’s even harder when you fear that the child may be fragile and you just want to make them feel safe and comfortable. But that’s just it: That whole “boundaries make kids feel safe” thing? It’s for real.
I wish I had been more willing all along to give hugs when she has a bad attitude. I always feel like we need to deal with the issue first, THEN hug. I feel like a hug that comes first affirms the bad behavior, but I’m letting that go. A hug calms her down, and makes her feel secure and loved. For her, for some reason, it can also make her think she’s done nothing wrong, but what’s the lesser evil here?
I wish I had known how many lesser-of-two-evils situations we would find ourselves in. I’m a very black-and-white person. I believe in right and wrong. That hasn’t changed. But in a situation that is as broken as hers, sometimes it’s just hard to know what’s right. Sometimes it seems like there IS no right.
I wish I had understood how hard it would be. I don’t mean the obviously hard stuff, but other things, like the fact that even the good stuff is hard. When she calls me mom and tells me she loves me, it’s so sweet, but it’s also hard because I don’t know how long I will be “mom” to her, and I think about how transient everything in her life has been. When I’m so proud of her because she’s been treating others kindly and forgiving offenses quickly, it’s also hard because I don’t know if she’s going to leave us and go somewhere where selfishness and bitterness are the virtues that are affirmed, rather than kindness and forgiveness. And other things are hard, like thinking about her future. It’s hard to contemplate whether a child ought to be returned to her parents or not. That question is borne out of so much brokenness. It’s a question that shouldn’t be asked, and yet it must be. It’s hard when I think about the possibility of her needing to be adopted, and I wonder where she will go. Will she stay with us? Should she? What’s best for her? And how can we possibly talk about what’s “best” for this child, when she has already lost the best thing?
None of these are really regrets that I have in earnest. Life doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to know everything about everything at the outset. We learn as we go, and apply the wisdom we gain to our current situation, and possibly have the grace to apply it to the next.
I should note that we were in fact “prepared” for a lot of this. (Not the Barbie books or the ketchup, of course.) Preparation can only go so far. People told us that marriage would be hard, so we read books and did premarital counseling, and figured we were set. Then we got married, and it was hard, and I wondered why that surprised me. But we worked on it, and it got better, and eventually I became pregnant with our eldest. And people said that childbirth would be the worst pain ever, and I was like “Okay thanks. Got it.” So we took some (mostly unhelpful) classes at the hospital, and we talked to other moms, and I felt prepared. And then as I gave birth, I thought “Oh crap, my baby is trying to murder me.” And I wanted to ask why no one told me it would be soooo haaaard, and then I remembered that they DID, but my brain took the words “worst pain ever” and could only do so much with those words. My only frame of reference was what my worst pain SO FAR had been, and that hadn’t been much. I think all of life is like that. People try to tell you. And you try to listen. But there’s no substitute for experience, which is both necessary and humbling. It also means that the things I’ve learned are only the tip of the iceberg.
So here’s one more “I wish”: I wish I knew the future. I wish I could know the end from the beginning, and what will come of all of this, but only God can do that (Isaiah 46:10). And mercifully, He can work through my past shortcomings and lack of future knowledge, and He is shaping this girl’s future just as He is shaping mine.