For almost three years after Clarence and Abraham came home, Andy and I could not handle any outside drama.
We couldn’t watch most any well-intentioned movie recommendation. We couldn’t have intense discussions (on matters not related to our household). We could only rarely read the newspaper. We couldn’t even read adoption related books (at least not the parts that detailed traumatic situations).
Our hearts and heads couldn't handle any more.
So, we purchased a few seasons of the Dick Van Dyke Show. And we laughed until we cried (much better than crying and not being able to stop).
One of Abraham’s therapists once told me, “Your humor is going to heal this kid.”
Since then, I have noticed the less seriously I take myself and the more lighthearted my approach to my children, the better equipped I am to enjoy them- especially their quirks (that otherwise drive me crazy). Often I think of our unique progress and laugh (and cry) to myself.
So, in the name of good medicine, I wanted to share some recent moments with my boys:
[Disclaimer: This may come as a surprise, but I’m not actually a licensed medical professional. Therefore, I technically cannot prescribe medicine. The following is intended for entertainment purposes only.]
Clarence (just shy of 9 years old and slowly but surely gaining enough language to speak in complete sentences...)
I took the children to the beach and I applied sunscreen to Clarence. After applying the sunscreen to his head, he exclaimed, earnestly and with a huge grin, "I feel like a butt-head!"
He repeated, "I feel like a butt-head!"
[For the record, I have no reason to sunscreen anyone's butt around here.]
Abraham (Age 7.5, who in his prior school year had been suspended a grand total of 17 times...)
Abraham came home from school one day and taught his brothers to “flip the bird.” He held his finger up and explained, “This is your middle finger. When you stick it up, you get a violation.”
“Why,” asked his brothers (as they continued to practice).
“Because it means something rude in China.”
Josh (about to turn 7 and very emotionally attuned to how others are doing...)
One morning, Josh looked deeply into my eyes and said [contemplatively], “Mom, you look beautiful.” Then, he took a bite of his cereal and added [shrugging his shoulders], “But, not as beautiful as I expected.”
He then asked if I could change from my work clothes into one of my “nice dresses.”
Eli (terrifically 2 and convinced that each of his brothers are the best brothers in the world...)
I LOVE singing to Eli before he goes to sleep. For months, we had a routine where I sang a lullaby called Mama Loves Eli (an “Alex original” and, thankfully, not available on iTunes) and Jesus Loves Me, to him each night.
Recently, Eli requested a new song (by asking for it by name several times).
Now our nightly less-comfortable-routine-for-me includes me singing, Who Let the Dogs Out while he does his wiggle dance in my arms. [Thanks Clarence.]
This journey is complicated. It is easy to get weighed down by truly hard stuff. Excruciating stuff.
I can think of a time where I felt so burdened by Clarence’s needs, I wouldn’t have been lighthearted enough to enjoy his innocence and how hilarious it was that he called himself a butt-head, not once, but twice.
I can think of times when I was so sure Abraham was trying to “control me”, that I would have missed the humor of him teaching his brothers rude gestures and his hilarious and outrageous explanation.
When I lived in a constant state of worked up, I was a piece of work. When I took myself too seriously and carried the weight of this family on my shoulders, I didn’t have opportunity to relax and enjoy these unbelievable (and entertaining) people I am blessed to live with!
This unique journey is mine to be enjoyed.
Last year, while I was cleaning poop off of our back deck, I could have been in despair. Rather, I was thankful. Even though it stunk and I was tired and didn’t know when I would get a break, I realized: a year earlier we had to scrub and paint all of Abraham’s walls and refinish his bedroom floors due to a more intense poop situation. That year, we were constantly cleaning poop. The deck situation was isolated. Abraham was overwhelmed, and yet, he had not been that overwhelmed in several months. There were reasons to celebrate! Reasons to smile.
Then, thinking about how I had reason to smile because my first grader pooped on the deck, I had to laugh (not in his presence), because, really, it is a pretty hilarious thing to celebrate!
The truth is, while life is really hard, this quirky family is enjoyable. Every single member. When Abraham’s therapist said, “Your humor is going to heal this kid,” I wonder if he meant, “The fact that you can still smile and laugh even though this morning you spent hours cleaning up feces and your son intentionally peed in your face, tells me you can enjoy your child enough to love him through this really hard stuff.”
That, in our experience, is true.
If I cannot laugh during these years of intense parenting, or find joy in our unusual milestones and in my unique and beautiful children, I can’t imagine I’m being part of the healing. If I’m only dwelling on the difficult, I will only be able to contribute to the problem.
And, as long as I am careful to take notice, I never run out of reasons to laugh.