Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A year! (And oh, what a year it's been)

A year ago today, my mom, Rose and I spent the morning strolling through an outdoor shopping area in Nanjing, China. Over the previous five days, we had flown halfway around the world, then done a marathon of sightseeing in Beijing and Shanghai. I think we thought it was finally time to catch our breaths. A year later, I'm still not sure I've caught my breath.

A year earlier, when we had gone to the same room in the same office building in the same city to get Rose, we waited for the longest half hour of my life before the babies arrived. This time, the orphanage people were waiting for us, and we turned the corner to find Eli, with a look of terror in his eyes. They placed him in my arms and he screamed. Rose patted him and said, "Okay, baby." And within just a little while, it really was okay.

Once his tears dried, Eli seemed to accept quickly that life with us was the new normal. And he's been easygoing like that for most of the last year. I'm not sure he would have survived the early months, with new casts each week and surgeries every month, if he hadn't had such a sweet disposition. And, like most two-year-olds, he definitely has his moments when he wants to be held or he whines or he climbs on things over and over and over again, but really, he's such a sweet, gentle, nice little guy. I feel so incredibly blessed to be his mom.

I feel like all of this is building up to a "but." I've tried to be as honest as possible on my blog, and while Eli is incredibly awesome and smart and funny and has made so much progress this year, this has also been the hardest year of my life. Ed warned me. The social worker warned me. The reading I did about adoption warned me, but I didn't believe them. I was a seasoned mom. I could handle this or anything in my path.

I thought that the year Ed was an intern and we moved to Minnesota and it snowed all winter long and the house was all brown and dark and depressing and Bryce was a toddler and Annie was a newborn would go down in the history of our family as the hardest year, but this year beat it. I love my kids fiercely, but having two two-year-olds brings me to the brink of my sanity almost every afternoon between the hours of four and six.

photo by Crooked Pinkie Photography
I like to do hard things. I'm always up for a good challenge. Honestly, until this year, I had never met a challenge I wasn't equal to. I hope that doesn't sound too arrogant. I recognize that I'm someone who has a lot of energy and drive, and it happens that I've chosen to focus most of that energy on being (at least for now) a stay-at-home mom. Most of my parenting years, I've worried that the energy and drive would have a negative impact on my kids because I did too much comparing or I was too involved in the kids' lives, but this year, it's been all I can do to keep my head above water. Neither Rose nor Eli sleeps all that well, and if you combine the sleep deprivation with trying to be the best mom I can be to two toddlers (who often act like they hate each other) all day, with doing all of the stuff my school-age kids need once they come home from school, I've felt stretched so thin that I'm sure I'll never be the same. I never have enough arms, enough time, enough patience. I fall asleep in movies, in the car when I'm not driving, and within seconds of my head hitting the pillow at night. I smile less and yell more. I always thought I'd bounce back from this stay-at-home parenting thing to have an awesome career in my 40s, 50s, and 60s, but I don't know if there is a bouncing back from six kids. If there is, it might take a few more years before I can see it.

There's no doubt that I would still adopt these two sweethearts again in a heartbeat. Would I recommend that others adopt? Absolutely. Would I recommend that others adopt two kids the same age? Yes, but with their eyes wide open. I think I thought that having two toddlers would sort of be like having a friend over for a perpetual playdate.

This year has been stressful for all of us, but our lives are better for being together. Eli is such a fantastic kid-- he's adapted so well to the chaos of our lives, and he's grown so much. He's adorable and funny and the perfect completion to our family, and we love him to pieces. I hope that this year will show our kids that we can do hard things, and even when those hard things don't stop being hard immediately, it's ultimately persisting through the hard things that bring life's greatest rewards. I consider Eli one of the greatest rewards of my life.


Molly said...

I'm so glad to hear that my kids (5 1/2, 3 1/2, and almost 2) aren't the only siblings that act as if they hate each other! And then they go play indoor soccer and can't stop hugging and wanting to be on each other's team. I love reading your blog and seeing your honesty. It gives me both entertainment and hope.

Blue said...

quote of the day that reminds me of this experience:

"When you can’t bear something but it goes on anyway, the person who survives isn’t you anymore; you’ve changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it after all." ~Austin Grossman

you're incredible, shelah. in every possible way. even between 4-6, weekdays :-)

Maria said...

Found you through Segullah--I need a support group with people like you. We have 3 bios and 1 in the process of adopting. I have 2 toddlers and they nearly kill my husband and I weekly, if not daily. It is just so draining.

But our adoption isn't finalized yet...and so I also struggle with the added burden of worrying about whether this is the right choice. It is just so darn hard and I want to just quit some days. But does hard mean not right? I don't know which way is up anymore...

Good luck with those babies. You are a strong lady.