Occasionally, one of my kids (or more than one of my kids) will get into some kind of trouble that instantaneously drains all of the energy right out of me and I think, “Okay. That’s it. I’m done for today.” Inevitably, dinner is simple that night and I skip bathing the children in order to get them in bed as soon as possible. Then, I sit and stare off into space for a bit.
My first child, Christopher, has always been a very energetic and creative child (translation: hyper and mischievous). Even when he was a baby he would occasionally produce one of those days for me all on his own. There was the time he climbed to the top shelf of the linen closet and hid there. When we finally found him, our hearts pounding in panic that someone had snatched our “angel”, he informed us, “Dis is my special seat, and nobody can make me come down!”
There was another time that he attempted to take off all of his clothes and jump into the fountain at the mall. Oh, and my personal favorite: The day I walked upstairs to find him sitting in the middle of the floor with a tub of Vaseline which he had proudly smeared to about 1/2 ” thickness all over his body and the carpet too.
But now, I have five children and that Vaseline covered toddler is standing on the brink of adolescence. Two of my children were adopted from Haiti a year and a half ago and spent the two years previously living in an orphanage. Sometimes, after a day like today I think about how the Vaseline episode threw me for a loop and then I say to myself, “If only that were the worst of my problems today.”
Two years is a long time to wait for a child. It is also a long time for a child to wait for her family. I remember thinking a few months after my girls came home that it was like there were all of these little boxes inside of them and that I had no idea was was in them and therefore was parenting “blind”. Over time however, the boxes popped up less frequently and then their appearance tapered off almost completely.
I guess that is why today when I came across one that was previously unopened I was caught off guard. It came out of nowhere and when I opened it, I am quite sure I heard something inside me fracture.
When I recovered, I was in awe that my little girl had been walking around with that box inside her and I had no idea. She had been laughing, playing, learning, and loving all the while.
And there it was. Unopened. Waiting until she was whole enough to look inside, her hand placed firmly in mine.
So, we looked inside together and then we cried together and held each other for the longest time. Then, I took her little face in my hands and reminded her what I told her in the beginning:
“I love you no matter what. I love you when you obey and when you disobey. I love you when you are nice and when you are not so nice. I love you when you make good choices and when you make bad ones. I love you when you are first out of the tub and smell clean and sweet and I love you when you are dirty and are stinky! I love you when you succeed and I love you when you struggle. I love you whether you are here or in Haiti. I have always loved you, even before you knew about me. Nothing can change my love for you because you are mine.”
But on days like today, I long for problems as simple as Vaseline on the carpet.