We had been home from China for four weeks, out of the hospital for one and were still in the throes of three- and four-hour-a-night sleep deprivation and adoption attachment (not to mention a bat infestation in the apex of our home) the day last month Super-Spouse had to bid us adieu.
The man we love — the never-stressed glue that holds us all together — the man who triages all the owies and makes bedtime routines work like clockwork in half the time this girl can get her act and four rambunctious boys together — was called by his job for a business trip.
That started that very day.
My first thought: I HATE being away from that man! I’m so not ready to see him go!
Which was followed shortly by my second.
Is it bad if in this season I hate losing his body more?
I’ll just shoot straight.
Super-Spouse is pretty much a saint.
Besides loving Jesus and encapsulating integrity and service and sacrifice and honor, the guy washes all the dishes. He performs all the nightly medical care. He daily jumps on the trampoline with the boys, and he weekly washes all the laundry.
He even humors me (though sometimes with an annoyed look on his handsome little face) by using my Container Store folder that feeds my Type A obsession with order and makes each article of folded clothing the exact same size.
That's true love. <3
Although this superhero works grueling 12+ hour days, when he comes home, HE. IS. HOME. Playing chess with the boys. Taking us out for family runs. Helping with the homework. Inserting his dry sense of humor into our sometimes too-serious lives and reminding us all that life is SO MUCH FUN.
And even though I am head over heels for that boy and love him more than alphabetization and The Container Store combined, do you know what this evil girl who desperately needs Jesus sometimes does?
TAKES HIM FOR GRANTED.
Becomes CRITICAL instead of GRATEFUL.
Fails to appreciate the gift straight from God that showed up at the altar on her wedding day.
Which is why, after the initial shock wave of “how-do-I-keep-four-penises-alive-without-the-big-one-here-to-supervise-and-no-warning-or-prep-time-to-listify-it-all,” I immediately stopped to pray.
And to thank God.
In all His goodness, He took away the God-send I had begun to take for granted, and He gave me an opportunity to re-learn GRATITUDE.
To REFLECT on my blessings.
To embrace unexpected circumstances.
To give thanks for this beautiful, messy life.
Nothing like spending two to three hours every night for a month on the medical and bedtime routines that your teammate does in one hour to build a little appreciation for the man you love. ;)
So for the last four weeks (right after I wrote Super-Spouse a several-page-long email telling him how much I loved and appreciated and adored him and promising never to take him or his makes-my-life-awesome-because-it-is-so-helpful body for granted ever again), the boys and I have put on new attitudes and embraced the opportunity for Mama-son time.
We’ve baked cookies and held potlucks, thrown friend birthday parties and made homemade lasagna for 22 guests.
We’ve visited cider farms and pumpkin patches, held water gun fights and leaped into pools in mid-October.
We’ve attended tae kwon do demonstrations and Mommy-and-me music classes and cross country meets and swimming and guitar lessons.
We’ve played in the waiting rooms of four different OT and PT appointments per week, and we’ve traveled as a herd to the multiple medical appointments and initial evaluations we’d already set up for our newest superhero upon his arrival home.
And, in honor of the man we wish more than anything could be with us, we’ve LIVED and LOVED LIFE, remembering what this man we miss so much has always taught us by HIS service and dedication to HIS work and life.
That each day is a gift. <3 And it’s one worth opening, embracing, enjoying and fighting for. Even when the ones you love aren't there to share it with you.
But it doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
We’re no newbies to this Mama-sons solo adventure lifestyle. Super-Spouse has traveled frequently with the job he passionately loves for 17 years, and this team has added enough tools to our toolkit over the 13 we’ve been married to get into the missing-Daddy zone pretty quickly.
But what WAS new were daily medical procedures for two superheroes and a fourth still-transitioning boy who couldn’t yet walk and didn’t yet communicate in full English who, after being abandoned at birth and recently leaving everything he knows, struggles big-time with goodbyes.
And if I’m just being honest, for the first two weeks, as we figured out a missing-Daddy rhythm, life, although RICH, was rocky.
And a LOT sleep-deprived.
What God reminded me of on THIS trip, during my first solo parenting experience of FOUR tiny humans who fight tooth brushing and underwear wearing and an incontinent beagle who rarely sleeps — is that I might not get to choose my circumstances.
But I DO get to choose my attitude. I DO get to choose my focus. I DO get to choose whether I open my eyes to the rich things He is doing BEFORE me ... or if I keep turning around missing the rich thing that is behind me.
Things like single parenting can be my OBSTACLE, or they can be my OPPORTUNITY.
They can be my BURDEN, or they can be my BLESSING.
And whether I choose gratitude or I choose grumpiness, I still have to face the same circumstances.
It’s just that if I’m too busy looking at THIS —
the dishes that never get washed or the garbage disposal that broke the day Super-Spouse left or the bats that keep haunting our front porch apex or the clock that’s blaring 10 p.m. by the time I’ve finished medical treatments and homework sessions and book time and special time with each boy or the morning alarm that has been going off daily at 3 a.m. to give me enough time after 10 p.m. bedtimes to finish work that doesn’t happen when little man refuse naps or the coffee machine I’m not using because Super-Spouse left me alone on Day 4 of the 21-day no-caffeine, no-sugar, vegan challenge we so enthusiastically started together and I am too stubborn to quit once the raging no-coffee head-aches had stopped — I miss THIS.
I miss the boys whose joy, even in challenging circumstances, keeps our home filled with [screaming-wrestling-light-saber-fighting] laughter.
Who have melted my heart with their family room jam sessions and made it explode with the way they’ve loved on their brothers.
Who have jumped in to take over dish duty and cleaning duty and laundry-folding duty and every other task Super-Spouse normally assumes, all while investing in and fighting for a baby brother who they are all teaching to stand and to walk.
I miss THIS guy, the oldest boy who noticed I was in over my head and took over Monday night dinners.
Who, while I was providing medical care for one superhero, made sweet potato-red pepper soup and curried cauliflower and steamed spinach and served it to his brothers and cleaned the entire kitchen afterward.
Who asked if he could continue making Monday night dinners for the rest of the year and served us this week the best stuffed bell peppers I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Who, when he found out that Daddy would now officially miss every cross country meet of his entire season, simply said he understood, and that his presence in his LIFE was more important to him than his presence at his MEET.
I miss THIS.
The boy who, at his red belt test last week, broke multiple boards, rocked his forms and took one more step toward his goal of becoming a black belt by the time he’s 10 years old.
And the phone call from the daddy who called the second the testing was over to video chat with the boy who heard the words over and over again from his daddy, “I’m so, so proud of you, buddy!”
When my eyes keep staring at the calendar that shows that Superhero 4 has officially spent more days APART from his daddy after moving to the United States than WITH him, or they dwell on the fact that Superman is thriving in kindergarten and won an award at a school assembly and Superhero 4, whose superpower is cerebral palsy, after only four weeks of physical therapy, stood up by himself and took his very first step, and Super-Spouse wasn’t here to see either, I miss THIS.
And the beautiful truth that these orphans-no-more feel so confident and loved by a man who emails and calls and tells them he loves them and believes in them every single chance he gets that they don’t need their daddy physically present to allow HIS LOVE and FAITH IN THEM to help them SOAR.
And I miss THIS.
An opportunity to use the tickets we'd already purchased to hubby's annual work formal to take my very FIRST love on the best daddy-daughter date of all time.
The truth about this life — this adult life, this parenting life, this work life, this adoption life — is that if I’m too busy looking at what I don’t have, I miss out on what I DO.
There is ALWAYS, always, ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
Even when you're single parenting four boys, taking a man in his 60s to adult prom and swimming in light sabers, temper tantrums and bat guano while simultaneously conducting marriage via email. <3
What’s beautiful about gratitude, whether it results from a month of surprise single parenting or the simple desire to live an intentionally more grateful life, is that it’s contagious.
When I am thankful for my blessings, my children become more thankful, too.
And suddenly their perspectives change from “Why don’t I have?” to “How can I GIVE?”
They begin SERVING. They begin SEEING. They begin asking not what others can do for THEM but what THEY can do for OTHERS, despite their own losses or circumstances.
They see orphans who don’t even HAVE daddies and their hearts reach out in love.
They see families who’ve recently PERMANENTLY lost parents and they ask to prepare meals to help.
They start seeing their circumstances not as burdens but as blessings to grow their hearts and their minds and their perspective and their compassion for others in similar circumstances.
And the big bonus?
When their daddy walks through that front door a month after the evening he never returned home, this time, NO ONE takes one of God’s greatest gifts for granted.
Including the girl who will never, ever, ever forget to say thank you for that treasure of a husband ever, ever, ever again. <3
“Let your living spill over into thanksgiving.”
~ Colossians 2:7, The Message
#grateful #thankful #blessed