For more than two weeks in a row this summer, I was home alone. With many many small children. I was also at the tail end of a super busy work season. When I finally came up for air from work and RRL was STILL out of town, I did the logical thing.
Watched every single episode of the first season of Gilmore girls.
In about 5 days.
And while I watched, I noticed myself taking on pieces of Loralei Gilmore persona: the laid-back, fun, energetic, witty and spontaneous pieces. Maybe because of the binge watching or maybe because I usually watched at a ridiculously late hour while falling asleep. Quite possibly both. Whatever the reason, I grinned big when I swung by and picked up pizza after work instead of cooking. Something I would have done anyway, but now seemed all spontaneous and free-spirited.
Then came the night I put my newly adopted traits to the test. 3rd of July. 6 kids in tow.
What would a fun, spontaneous, free-spirited, (temporarily) single mom/aunt do? She’d totally pack a picnic of breakfast food (breaking all the picnic rules), throw bedtime caution to the wind and go watch a movie and fireworks under the stars.
Turns out, kids had a blast. And I was miserable.
It was H-A-R-D to be spontaneous and fun. There was zero care-freeness. And suddenly, I had a sharp TV realization. There is a reason Loralei Gilmore was never portrayed on screen with her 3 year old. And why she only had one kid. Who was born to her. Because the best of actresses in the world couldn’t have masked the truths which are necessary in such situations. You know: the sweat, the gritted teeth and the under-your-breath “I will pack everything up and leave” (which you don’t mean because the only thing worse than surviving there is is the idea of getting everyone outta there)…all while taking happy smiling pictures.
Lets just say that if two sweet baby-sitter-friends hadn’t just happened along in the knick of time, I honestly think I might have lost it. I cannot even begin to portray the desperation I exuded when they coincidentally walked in. I readily admitted complete defeat and accepted a few minutes of their company and
Looking back, it totally makes sense that I was defeated. I was aiming for fun with sugar, a late night movie and dinner on the lawn as a single parent of 6; while I’m a strict bedtime and rules kind of parent who finds her team-mate invaluable.
It is hard to be something you aren’t. Like your momma always tells you: “Just be yourself.”
REAL LIFE: But what about when what you’ve always been isn’t what you need to be?
This, I think, is at the root of why parenting “bonus kids” is ROUGH. Whether step kids, foster kids or adopted kids, when you have “bonus kids” you need to become something you are not. You were not first their mom/dad, but you need to act it.
With my three bonus kiddos, I’m not even hoping to be their mom someday (because I hope they’ll be permanently reunited with their bio-Mom). But for right now, for who knows how much longer, I’m their primary maternal influence. I need them to believe that I will love them and provide for them unconditionally and for as long as they need. I need them to find invisible the sometimes glaringly obvious line between them and my bio four. I need them to believe without doubt that when I say they are some of my absolute favorites, it is true. It isn’t what was, but for now it needs to be what becomes.
What’s more, they are also trying to be something they are not. Most days they are just trying to ACT like they belong here. Like maybe if they try hard enough they will finally mold into someone that fits. I’m just beginning to be aware that they are grieving this hard reality, too. Maybe not in a way they could articulate, but I believe its a deep soul “this isn’t the way it was ever supposed to be” kind of grief. There is a part of them that clings to this temporary reality with fierceness. A part of them that rests at night knowing tomorrow will have more of the same new normal in store for them. It isn’t what was, but it is what has become.
The qualities and truths that are bringing us together right now are not qualities and truths which we are, they are qualities and truths we are becoming. Little, hard, but important bits at a time.
Maybe you, too, have felt you were pretending to be something you aren’t. You first have a child come to you because of your heart to help, to meet their needs. And you fiercely desire to develop a heart that connects to who they are, not what they need. So, you fake it for a while, maybe a long while. Only to realize one day you aren’t faking. You’ve grown into it. You’ve become it.
Even once it has become, it might not be glaringly obvious. That’s where I am. I am learning to hunt for the miracles that represent this becoming. Maybe its just that he came running out of school to tell you about his day, that she was able to tell you what she was afraid of instead of saying “I don’t know”, that he actually relaxed and snuggled deep into your lap when you picked him up. Maybe its that he laughs at a joke and recognizes that you are kidding, maybe its that she can voice her opinion.
For me, recently, it was when I peeked into a desk and picked up a little pink eraser that looked exactly like it should. I had a sudden flash of sharp contrast to the one I saw in the same spot last year, at the beginning of school. This time no signs of anxiety reminded me of what we’ve become.
If you’ve experienced the miracle of that transformation you know, you can’t will yourself there out of sheer determination. While you were becoming something new it can be painful and so rocky your hiking boots lose tread long before you arrive. In the midst of becoming it may seem that only through brutal refinement do you change and grow.
Friends who are becoming: Will you please hunt with me? Let’s hunt for the miracles that remind us that we are becoming. They might not be what we’d expect, but we’ll find them.
Because it is hard to become something you are not.
But not impossible.