Is it okay to confess here that I’m not that great at math? Is this a safe place to let you know that my brain has just never fully comprehended the mysteries of equations and theorems? It’s too true. I have always felt more of an affinity for words because they can be changed and adjusted to reflect what I think and feel. Numbers? They are what they are and people who are “math-y” love that about them. They don’t change. They just are.
Today we are at our three-month mark (a quarter of a year!) of being a family of six in our own home. Today is THE day when, three months ago, brothers met a new sister, grandparents saw a new granddaughter, and living our new normal began. We came through those first tough weeks with the help of many a friend… many a meal dropped off… many a phone call, many a text message of encouragement. And now, three months in, we are supposed to be fairly settled according to outside eyes looking in.
Our growth may look like 5 + 1 = 6, to the world, but sometimes 5 + 1 equals more than 6, doesn’t it? Adding one to the family is never a simple matter of mathematics; it isn’t even close to being logical or predictable. Adding one more via adoption has proven to take the set-fast rules of math and turn them flat-out upside down.
We’ve added so much more than one. We’ve added…
One plus trauma.
One plus fears.
One plus heartache.
One plus self-soothing.
One plus sleep issues.
One plus communication issues.
One plus emotions that seemed so much MORE than they ever were before.
One plus _______________________.
All of it makes it seem like so much more than six in the family!
During the first few topsy-turvy weeks home, I became very intentional about making lists. I’m not a list-maker by nature but there was something about seeing these particular lists in front of my eyes that gave me encouragement.
There was the “Bad” list – the things I struggled with. The hard things I saw, the difficult scenarios that played out – not just in a training manual or video or book! The hard things were real, and right in front of me! There are fears on that list, and heartache, and documentation of behaviors that spoke of a little one who lived a life without a family for four years.
There is also the “Good” list – the things I rejoiced over! The positive things I saw, the behaviors that proved a kernel of hope could exist in my heart and grow. There are blessings listed, and when I could see bits of shrapnel rising to the surface of my battle-worn daughter I could pluck them out with joy and record that, too.
One of the things I wrote on the List of Good was that “the good list is longer than the bad list”! And it was true.
We deal with All the Things on a daily basis, don’t we? We care for their needs and we care for their hearts and we make lists in our mind about the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. We are so burdened by the hard things that it’s easy to be blinded to the good. But we have to prop our eyelids open and look for it; the good has to be noted. It has to be recorded.
If adding one more adds more than one is hard ways, we have to remember that we’re also adding more in joyful ways!
One plus giggles galore!
One plus family bigger and messier family dinnertime!
One plus sweet kisses!
One plus, “mama, hug?” being requested!
One plus eyes that are awakened to Family more every day!
One plus emotions that seem so much MORE than they ever were before!
One plus ___________________________.
The One + Something Good is what I want to go after; it’s what I want my heart to settle on at the end of a long day.
I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with this concept, this pursuit of the Good. I notice and respond to and am proactive when it comes to handling the Hard Things, but ultimately I see that the balance is always in favor of Good. The tricky part for me has been how this balance looks on the outside, to others. At home, I find myself content most days, and settled into our new normal. But when we’re out and about, I often have a difficult time focusing on the Good! People notice and acknowledge the positive changes in our spunky girl, and they are the same changes I see at home, but for some reason, I have a harder time admitting the growth and change to others. I don’t want people to forget how much Hard there has been. I want them to know that the hard things are still there, that, some days, it’s still really difficult, that regressions happen, tempers are lost, and nap times come early.
And so, in these first three months, I found myself tending to be vocal about the hard things where I seldom would point out the good. When this awareness that I was almost intentionally focusing on how far we have to go versus how far we have come hit me, it was shocking. One of the things I’ve always wanted to be as a mother is honest and realistic about the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to my children. But for some reason, our Little Miss has been different. I am afraid of people assuming she can be a normal four-year-old and have them overlook her past and the effect it has on her. I’m afraid that she will feel overwhelmed by what she “should” be able to do, how she “should” be able to act. I want her to be free to be the four-year-old that processes emotions more like a two-year-old right now. But I fear that others will see this behavior and judge her because they don’t understand. I’m afraid that the concept of 5+1 = more than 6 won’t be understood.
And so, I remind them. I freely share the struggles, but hesitate to share the triumphs fearing that the depth of the struggle would be overlooked. In the reminding I am not giving HER a fair chance to show off the spunky, brave, determined girl she is. I am not giving them a chance to understand her; I am robbing them of their chance to see how her past is a part of her and show grace. I now see the way I handled things for weeks and know that it cannot continue. If a grace-filled life is what I’m seeking to live, then I have to extend that grace to others and their interactions with our girl.
I foolishly believed that when we jumped from being a family of five to a family of six that I had this. I heard from friends “in the know” that once you get past three kids, you’re already accustomed to be outnumbered, so the jump to four or more is relatively easy to accomplish.
* Ahem *
Friends. This to me is like saying it’s easy to jump across the Atlantic Ocean if you can jump across a puddle! I like to picture myself in these moments of being overwhelmed as being in a boat. I’m just rowing. My job is to listen to the rhythm being called out by my Father. I keep my oars paced with Jesus because He is one with the Father. I feel the presence of the Spirit hovering on the waters all around me. I know that every pull of an oar takes us closer to what our family is meant to be.
5 + 1 has been SO much more than 6, and it has caused me to reevaluate what “getting there” means. It has meant learning what forgiveness is in a new way. It has meant learning what love is and grace is… all in new ways. It’s a much slower process than I thought it would be, this bonding of our family into a new and beautiful 6-fold unit but in the end, we’re still getting there.
Ultimately, I know that the One who made our family what it is today is not intimidated by mathematics in the way I am. He sees the numbers, and he brushes them aside to reassure me that His thoughts are higher, His plans better.
5 + 1 + God = peace… this kind of math I like.
— photos by Amanda Cross