Over the weekend, we took the kids to the beach. We drove to the one with seals, despite the fact that it was a trek, we knew the kids would love it, they are animal lovers.
As usual, one boy needed to pee when we arrived, signaling the other of his eminent pee need. I always feel like such a stealth spy when they need to go, allowing them to go just about anywhere out and about, blocking them, leaning them forward. There will be an age limit to this.
We were having a bit of a heatwave here in San Diego, but this day it was tapering off, which was nice. We gazed at the sea, watching the soft ripples constantly moving in a translucent maze of blues and turquoise. Maria had her first school dance last week, and the two of us stole away for an evening to find the right dress, turquoise like the sea, “No tank top,” she told me as her hands passed the fabrics of the dresses at the store.
Andrew and I were surprised she wanted to go to the dance, it seemed outside of her comfort zone, but she was eager, which made us excited, “But, I am not going to dance….” she told us.
“Well, that’s like the one requirement. It’s not called a stand there, it’s called a dance.”
We spent the evening listening to hip-hop-pop and showing her all the most important moves.
“This is called the SPRINKLER,” I told her, while Andrew showed her the shopping cart and weed-wacker, the music pounding around our house, the boys showing their own moves–and body slams. She giggled and kind of danced along, having more fun as we progressed into each new move, feeling more comfortable trying them each out, seeing how silly we were OK with looking, letting go a little bit more each day.
When the boys and I picked her up, the room was dark and smelled a little like BO and teen spirit, ratted streamers hanging in strands from the ceiling, small groups of preteens taking group selfies, “Oh wait no–let’s do it again…” as they reposed, and she rushed up to greet the boys and I, who had grown silent and wide eyed at the dark room and loud music, her smile beaming through her face. “I kind of felt like a grown up!” she told me in the car on the way home. Plus, they had played Taylor Swift, so extra bonus.
Seals give birth December through February, and we spied two little babies, a black one and a dusty cream colored baby. The adults laid, tired along the shore, while the babies tumbled and wrestled, their open, playful mouths looking like smiles. The boys delighted and cooed over them.
“We need to go down there,” they nodded at us.
At the same time, both seals went to nurse with their mommies. This is the second time we had seen nursing this week, the first precipitated by behavior and a spoken word.
Over the weekend a friend spoke a prophetic word to Elijah, of his need for babyhood. That he had missed so much of his, and how much he need to go through the stages, to pass to the next. In my mind I thought we had attempted that already, I knew it to be true, hadn’t we already? Maybe rocking someone to sleeping isn’t the same as treating them as a baby. We thought we’d give it a try. The next morning we cooed over him, and said, “Hi baby Elijah, you are the cutest baby ever!”
He instantly got on his hands and knees and started crawling, then to my feet, a first, and reached up with his two hands toward mine–my independant boy? I held him in my arms, softer than ever prior, as he curled, his usual toughness which served as a wall, gone. I imagined he was an infant, saw one where he lay, I asked him if he wanted a baby blanket? Diaper? Milk? We had walked through this scenario with Maria who benefitted greatly from being bottle fed, and moved through that stage, late, but thoroughly when allowed.
“Milk,” he told me.
“Sure,” I said, trying to remember where the bottles were…
He softly reached for my shirt, “Finwey drank miwk from here?”
“Yes,” I told him, I didn’t know how he’d known, he’d never seen me do it, doesn’t see nursing often, and when he does I assumed he was oblivious…
Remembering the prophetic word from the night before, I asked him if he would want some milk, thinking he’d laugh and snap out of his ‘pretending.’
But he wasn’t pretending. And the moment I glanced at Andrew to catch his eye at what Elijah had asked for, he latched on, looking smaller and more vulnerable than I had ever seen him. His behavior had been off the week before, and after this he was calm. It was only for a few seconds, but that he would ask….
it blew us away…
That day I spoon fed him his lunch, rocked him to sleep, and shushed him like a fussy newborn. He never laughed, or gave us his usual grin, he never sped away to catch up to his brother, but seemed to grow smaller, cozier, more in need of our comfort. He wanted all of it. He soaked it in, opened his mouth wide, like a baby, but with joy, appreciation. This busy boy wanted to be held and rocked, and that night he told us, “I am not a baby anymore.”
And he wasn’t.
Had he just needed to pass through that stage once again with us? Most of the time I forget we have adopted kids. Kids that missed out on so much, with pain that will never be mine like it is theirs. Sometimes I try to parent in my own strength, and forget to ask God, and when I do, he tells me. Even when it seems strange, we are willing. It can feel so humbling, not knowing what will be best for your child until you ask–it makes my heart feel kind of tender like a bruise, but it’s my favorite place to be, the verge of the beauty God is willing to share with me.
As the sun came out, all the children at the beach were drawn to the water like a gravitational pull.
The parents were pulling at their kids, too, “Your shirt, your pants!” they called out, making us not want that fight,
“Just go,” we told them.
They glided around for a while, running into the shallow pools over and over again, fresh excitement each time, the sand pumicing our feet, greedy seagulls circling, the boys urging each other to go deeper with each leap. Andrew and I sat under the sun, one of those moments filled with feelings at odds, leaving you serene, feeling time slipping quickly, yet standing still around us in these waters. The mix of a warm sun on our cheeks in February, the soft giggle of our children just beyond reach, the smell of salt, like a lucid dream.
Everything we’ve wanted, frozen in this warm moment, with each other. Home.
i will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
As I sit in a chilly office 1000 miles away, working for researchers of child behavior, I am blown away by how fascinating this is.
So touching. Once again your family has my heart.
Nursing as I read this…so sad and sweet. I am reading the book simplicity parenting right now. At one point he talks about recognizing when your kids have a “soul fever” like an illness but on the inside, something is troubling themand they are just..you know , off from normal. He recommends treating them softer And slowing down…just like you did. What a powerful experience you shared, thank you.
Oh Amy how you make the most beautiful posts ever written! The sincerity just flows from your heart to your computer. I love the way you nursed your sweet boy, so many would have found so many excuses to give to the little darling but you in your maternal manner knew exactly what he needed. Keep up the good work sweet mama. Your little family is adorable!
Everyone said it before me but I just couldn’t not comment. This was just such a beautiful post!
This is a beautiful post (as are all of your posts!)
I was wondering if there was an adoption update on your youngest daughter? Do you think you will be bringing her home soon? What a blessing she will be to your family and you to her life. Can’t wait to meet her!
Thank you for this! I had previously read about adoptive families helping their littles go back and “connect the dots” by treating older children like infants for a time. I thought it was interesting and filed it away somewhere in the back of my mind.
But now…we will be traveling soon to bring home two boys. The younger one will be 2 1/2 when we get there. I know little of his history, but I do know he was born to a single mother and left at the hospital. (The older boy lived with his family for a couple years before going to the orphange, so presumably he got at least some semblance of the infancy stages…it may be the toddler/preschool ages we need to revisit?)
I am also 13 weeks pregnant. I’d been a little concerned how they would do with a new baby in the house. But now you’ve made me realize that maybe it will be beneficial! Maybe it will help them to go through some of the stages together?
Thank you for sparking the ideas and discussion with my husband!