Parenting seven children, one more complicated and unique than the next, that are spaced 17 long years apart, is something.
I will tell you that. SOME.THING.
In the first decade and a half that I was in this line of work my parenting motto was both profound and honest.
"Holy cats, what the hell is happening?"
As I have matured, and put the years in, my motto has matured with me. Currently, the motto stolen from Vincent Van Gogh is, "I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it."
Always. (But keeping both ears while learning.)
Today we celebrate the TENTH birthday of the sixth child. Our surprise unplanned
Phoebe has conquered the single digits and said to them, "Goodbye. I am finished with you, you are useless to me now."
Thanks to Hope, the big sister that has gone before, we know that puberty happens quite early for this gene pool and Phoebe is well into the confusion and hormonal upheaval of this cursed time of life. (Stop a moment. Remember how monstrous it was? Oh my word. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy.)
Okay, Puberty, we see your destructive confusion and self hatred and we raise you our combined years of experience arm in arm with the silly song and dance routine that makes hurting girls crack a smile.
All parents have individualized concerns, things they specifically worry about for each of their kids.
(Interesting and DIFFICULT Math fact: More kids = More concerns)
Streaming thoughts be like: This one is a perfectionist too hard on him/herself, This one tends to be a bit lazy - won't find job, loves couch, This one feels deeply enough for three people, This one won't cry, what does that mean, This one seems to be addict material, ETC ETC ETC.
We do like that. That is how we parents think. We attempt to figure out what each kid's biggest stumbling block might be and we get to the work of obsessing about how to address it early, how to fix it before it means big consequences.
We are always doing what we cannot do in order to learn how to do it.
Sigh. (Future Parenting Motto)
Phoebe struggles to believe she is loved. There are two people that do a really beautiful job of meeting Phoebe where she is, they seem to have better luck than the rest of us ... Noah and Troy - something about their tenderness (and maybe their maleness matters too? I don't know. I am always doing what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it) speaks with greater authority to Phoebe than the rest of us can.
My beautiful long-limbed and wonderfully complicated ten year old, Phoebe Joy-
I regret that the life has meant loss for you. I regret that your First Momma had an intensely stressful pregnancy -- you must have sensed it as you grew in her.
I regret that systems of poverty and abuse and brokenness meant that you were born in a small mud shack called "home" while bullets flew around CiteSoleil.
Those same systems, hideous and overwhelming they are, meant adoption and "placement" for you. That is loss. Immediate loss. I know that. I abhor that the beginning of your life was stress and loss.
Today I sat with you and told you this:
This year. This 10th year ... I pray that you would come to believe you are loved. I pray that in the deepest part of your soul you would believe it. I know that you hear the words and you nod your head, but I know that you don't truly live in the freedom of the truth of it yet.
I want for you the deep deep knowing, the kind of knowing that no other person on earth can take from you with words or actions, that you are worthy and wanted and unconditionally LOVED.
I know others like you, that struggle to make this the truth of their waking and their sleeping. You are not alone in your unbelief. I want for you the TRUTH of a NEVER-DYING, EVERLASTING, LOVE.
May you grow to know it this very year. Amen, amen, amen.