Life has a funny way of bringing people into your life. The funniest part is usually the fact that you lived so long without them, but once they come into your life you just can’t imagine it without them. They say it takes a village, and I couldn’t agree more. That village though can take a while to build. It certainly does not happen overnight. In the early days of motherhood I often wished I could magically make a village appear. There were times it felt as if it worked. Admittedly I was lucky and I had a lot of help. That does not mean though that my village was complete.
So much of our time is focused on the baby years. Why do they cry so much? How will we get through the sleep deprivation? How will we figure out breastfeeding? No really, why aren’t they sleeping? How will we figure out every little thing? Holy cow babies are a lot of work. As our children grow we tend to think we need less help, but the truth is we need more. Kids are complicated. They grow and change constantly, and with all that growth and change we can often feel lost and confused. Whenever someone asks me what my best parenting advice is, I always tell them, (after I’m done laughing about the fact that they think I know anything) is to find their people. Find the people who are going to laugh with you. Find the people who are going to let you cry and then cry with you. Find the people who are not going to judge you for calling your kids names behind their backs, and for questioning your ability to handle this thing called parenthood regularly. Those are your people and they will make this journey so much easier.
How will you know when you have found these people? You will know. There are constantly new stages with kids. When my oldest was six years old he started baseball. I was completely out of my comfort zone. My favorite sport is running, which if I’m being honest takes zero coordination and I can do it alone. Early mornings on a ball field with “early morning moms” can be rough. I am not a morning person, not by a long shot, and baseball games can be really early in the morning. Did you know this? I didn’t. There isn’t enough coffee on the planet to prepare me for a full conversation on a cold set of bleachers at 8am on a Saturday.
My son was loving baseball, and watching him learn to love something new, somehow gave me a new found love for the sport as well. It helped that his coaches were great. They were nurturing and tough all at the same time. One of the other moms and I knew each other when we were teens, but we hadn’t seen each other since then. We knew each other when crushes on boys and Friday night plans were our biggest concern. Throughout the season we grew closer. Her husband, Ed was the head coach and they decided to do an end of the season team barbeque at their house.
We wound up talking for a long time on her porch. She opened up to me about their struggle to conceive and the adoption of their boys, and I opened up to her about two miscarriages, two babies, and the loss of loved ones. We cried and laughed about the stresses of adult life. We bonded. She brought me into her dining room and we stood at her window. She told me how butterflies have always been significant and the proof that her lost loved ones are still with her. I started crying telling her how I felt that way about cardinals. It was that day that I knew we were forever friends.
Somehow while we were becoming part of each other’s village we barely noticed that our boys had done the same. They play, they laugh, they joke and they act like they’ve known each other forever. I remember being a little kid. I remember feeling like I couldn’t remember my life before my friends. It’s an innocent, beautiful time, and I’m often envious of my boys for being in the thick of it.
Leeann and Ed’s boys are from Korea. They know they are adopted and they know where they are from. Leeann and Ed teach them about their culture and make it part of their home. For some reason I always thought my boys knew that their friends were adopted, mainly because Ed and Leeann are so open about it.
As I sat with my boys to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I mentioned that their buddies were Korean. My oldest looked at me and said, “Oh cool. Like how we are Irish and Italian?”
“Yes.” I replied. “Only they came here straight from Korea.”
“Wow. Cool. I didn’t know Ed and Leeann are Korean.”
“They’re not bud. The boys are adopted.”
My youngest suddenly peaked an interest in our conversation, “Adopted? What does that mean?”
“Well bud, it means that the boys were born in Korea and Ed and Leeann adopted them from there. Some babies come from our bodies and other babies come from our hearts.” Both of my boys just sat there staring at me and I found myself frustrated with my own loss of words to explain it better.
“I get it mom. All babies come from hearts. Babies choose their forever parents. We chose you and daddy and they chose Leeann and Ed. We didn’t get here the same way, but that doesn’t matter. Love made us yours.” And just like that my son explained it for me. The truth is our children were never ours to choose, they chose us. Our paths are not the same, but the journey sure is. We spend our days feeling tired. We doubt ourselves more often than not, we worry, we feel joy, and we feel proud. We cry when they’re not looking and sometimes get caught when they are. We complain. We think about who we were before them, and every time we do, we realize we wouldn’t change a thing. Our kids are a lot of things, but they are entirely and always our hearts. Love made them ours.