I am thankful for my family. I’m thankful that we’re all safe and there’s no one in the world that I’d rather be too hot or too cold with. – Jack Pearson, This is Us
Time’s been storytelling with us. Our family life is a sitcom and a drama. Our script has been sweet and fun and challenging and gut-wrenching. It’s been real, raw and full. Giggles and tears have walked in tandem. We are husband and wife turned father and mother. Our cast of characters has expanded, and we certainly aren’t who we once were. We are family built by adoption and biology, time and circumstance. There have been plot twists and surprise endings, and it’s a messy kind of beautiful. With every memory though, every point in time, our us gains strength and definition.
Tomorrow calls us forward, but oh how the past has shaped us. Our scrapbooks bulge ever open, full up with happy photographs and ticket stubs memories. But the highlight reel also holds loss and secrets, hurt and pain. The memories all so intertwined now.
This is us, adoptive families.
Our marriage stretches and grows and groans. As we’ve moved from wearing jerseys and cheering on our college team to delivering a daughter in an operating room and boarding planes to adopt daughters and a son, we’ve had to figure us out over and over again. We’ve planned romantic nights out, but also sometimes turned the kitchen into a battleground. We get it right and get it wrong. We make sacrifices for our family, yet still give each other space to be individuals with gifts and interests. Through all the complications, I like us. We’re fun.
Every child’s birth into us is a miracle story. There’s been birth and adoption, loss, birthparents, abandonment, surrender, acceptance, beauty and blessing. We deal with race, have questions about unknown birthparents, and wonder about lost culture. Our kids hold their arms up to ours and ask why the color is different. The outside world looks in on us and has questions too, and we respond at stores and at the pool.
As a wise TV dad once said, we love our kids as much a human heart can. We don’t want to be 10 out of 10 parents, we want to be superhero, 12 out of 10 parents. So we make sacrifices and plans. We pack lunches and sports bags. We do homework and pop movie night popcorn. We cheer at soccer games and plays. We build traditions and hold hard to them like safety nets during life’s plot twists. We carry our kids on our backs and hope they’ll feel the arms wide open, weightless freedom that comes with being carried.
We are one team, yet each family member is unique in temperaments, talents, appearance, and personalities. One kid has charisma, and another is quiet. One battles self doubt, and another anxiety. Sometimes we’re left sitting in the hallway, dazed and confused, trying to make sense of what each child needs. Sometimes we try to protect them from standing out, when actually shining is just what they need. We get it right and we get it wrong. Our kids love each other, envy each other, enjoy each other, and are tired of each other’s big needs.
We hope and pray that someday our grown-up kids will look back with fondness at the life we strung together. We hope they’ll grin, shake their heads and tell stories about birthday parties, vacation blunders, and living room dance parties. We hope they’ll see the hard moments through the lens of being loved. We hope joyful memories will trump painful ones. We hope solid sibling relationships will give our kids an us, long after we’re gone.
Our us is messy and quirky in the best way. We like road trips and have a fondness for jazz and Disney tunes. We have epic meltdowns, occasionally in public. We have secrets, sicknesses, arguments at Thanksgiving, and have lost people we love. We have history, inside jokes and a handshake. We have relationships that come together, fall apart, and then come together again. That’s just us.
We are discovering beauty in the messiest parts of life. We’re realizing that sometimes we smile, even while crying. We are learning to carry bouquets of rainbow balloons even on hard days, because the hardest parts of life are seared with a beautiful rawness.
We aren’t the best at it, but we love each other, and that’s something. The days are passing and the years are already blurring together, so imperfect us is trying to live our here and now days to the full. We are trying to choose joy, to say yes to the dance floor, yes to blessings disguised as interruptions, yes to music up loud and windows rolled down. And, why not, yes to goofy family chants and silly traditions.
In the end, we’re just being us as best we can, in and out of days, in and out of years.
I like our life.
– Kevin Pearson, This is Us