Just over one year ago, I wandered around this same house, tidying up and making piles of things to pack. I made lists and sent emails, ensuring things would run smoothly while we were gone because I was, and still am, ultra organized. I sewed bow ties and packed up orders, just like I do now. We played outside with our same neighbors every afternoon and I made most of the same soups that I am still making this winter.
We crossed the ocean and picked up our girl and within an hour of having her in our hotel room with us, the only thought pounding louder in my head than "we were so unprepared for this" was "I will never be the same".
I think about it a lot, actually, because most everything is still the same. Same house, same yard, same food, same school, same church. Same friends, same family, same jobs. But I am not the same.
Every year for Mother's Day, Arthur's school has the kids fill out a questionnaire about their mom. It is one of my very favorite things. In 2015, Arthur listed my age as 15. In 2016, he listed it as 20. I think this is a fairly accurate way to sum things up- if ever there was a year in which I feel like I've aged five, it has been this one.
Our once quiet and orderly household has become…much less quiet and orderly. It’s not worse. It’s just not the same. Tasks that used to be simple to complete now feel like great accomplishments- everyone has brushed their teeth and put on socks?!?! How wonderful!!! Somebody is often crying, or bleeding, or both. Usually both.
We soldier on. Our family has expanded and we have all felt the growing pains, but they’ve made us stand taller. I am more patient and, I hope, more compassionate. When I see a mom at Target holding a large coffee and giving her child a bag of chips, just so she can have a moment to pick out the food she is going to cook for dinner, I think to myself "we're all just doing the best we can" and give her a mental hug. I have become someone who assumes the best of people because I certainly hope people are assuming the best of me when they see us out and about.
The challenging year has caused Steve and I to lean on each other in a way we may not have had to otherwise. There are many times when I feel like nobody else could possibly understand what it is like to parent in our specific situation and then I remember- Steve does. He knows it all, deals with it all, eats chocolate and does yoga with me after bedtime to handle it all. His consistent nature and endless patience make me want to marry him over and over again, just because I am reminded anew of what a fantastic idea that was.
And then there’s Arthur. We began last year with a lot of door slamming. Arthur was desperate to keep his new sister out of his room, his toys, his everything. And nobody blamed him. But he has changed too. Arthur has always been an amazing kid and now he has become an amazing brother as well. He asks to bring Helen on school field trips. He wants to wake her from nap, just to play with him. Today he got a bag of ten Hershey’s kisses from a party at school. As soon as he got home he made a beeline for the baggie drawer and carefully counted out five. And I blinked back tears as he handed them over to Helen, saying “Here, Helen! Your own bag!” That’s who he has become- a kid who enjoys everything more when he shares it with his sister.
Obviously, Helen is not the same either. She is learning what it means to be in a family. She is learning English and American social customs. The other night during bath, she noticed a scratch on her belly and she said, “Oh no! Precious girl!”, repeating what we often call her. And I think that is the change in her- she is now someone’s precious girl, which of course changes everything.
We are not the same. And although I couldn’t imagine it yet when I first had that thought, I would say that now we are better than ever.