Tag Archives: Life

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Learn

26 Aug

Dear Little Man,

This past June I did what every 20-something should do at least once: I backpacked through Europe. Now before we get any grand ideas, by “backpacking” I don’t mean I trekked through the mountains of Europe in hiking boots with just a compass and my sense of adventure. I mean I pre-booked trains and flights and hostels and had a few minor panic attacks when I thought I was going to miss any travel connections. But I did pack a month’s worth of belongings into an over-sized REI backpack…ergo, I backpacked through Europe. Just roll with it.

No matter how you define “backpacking,” I saw some incredible places on my trip. Your Aunt S and I met up in France and traveled to Spain, Germany, and Ireland at which point we parted ways and she flew home as I continued my European exploration in England.

I climbed the Eiffel Tower (despite my paralyzing fear of heights because, um, it’s the Eiffel Tower)…

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel 2

And hung out in the Alcázar Palace in Spain….

Spain

And drank massive beers in Munich…

Giant Beer!

Glug, glug...

And went scuba diving in Nice…

Scuba Diving

And found five-leaf clovers in Galway…

Five-Leaf Clover

And ate and ate and ate some more.

European Food!

It was amazing. The people I met, the cultures I was immersed in, the daily adventures I went on with your Aunt S…it was everything I always thought it would be. I’ve always wanted to travel, especially around Europe, and my month-long excursion was definitely worth how poor I am now. I ate and I laughed and I danced and I could really breathe for the first time in months. It was glorious, and perfectly timed.

But everywhere I went, I thought of you. I wanted to show you the carvings on the underside of the Arc de Triomphe and the view of Paris from the tip top of Montmartre. I wanted you to see just how blue water can be and how fish look when you’re swimming right beside them. I wanted to tell you about the feeling you get when your legs are dangling over the edge of the Cliffs of Mohar (not entirely legal, by the way) and you can’t even breathe because it’s so beautiful and you feel so small.

But since I couldn’t bring the real you with me, I brought our story instead. But the first time I brought you up, I noticed I was a little nervous. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how adoption translated…literally and metaphorically. How do I say, “I have a son but I don’t have him because I chose other people to raise him and be his family because I thought that’s what was best for him?” That particular sentence is not in any French phrase book. I know, I was surprised too.

The first person I told our story to was our friend and host, François — he was kind enough to let us sleep on his couch during our stay in Paris. I was going through pictures on my phone at dinner one night, and since most of my photos are of you, he glanced over and saw one. He asked me, “Is that your nephew?” I smiled and corrected him and quickly launched into the story of your adoption and The B’s. He looked surprised at first, but just for a second…and then he asked all about you. One of the last things he said to me was before we left for Spain was, “Say hello to your little boy for me. It’s things like him that make life beautiful. That’s what it’s all about.” So, hello from François :)

When I told our story to the woman we stayed with in Provence, Elodie, she started talking about how she couldn’t wait to have children with her soon-to-be husband. She told me the boy and girl names she’d already picked out.

When I told Florian, our German host, he told me he hoped that if he had any kids, he wanted them to have curly blonde hair like yours.

When I told the woman who worked in the coffee shop in Dublin on my last morning there (she stole a glance at a photo of you like François did), she said she’d never heard of anything like our adoption story, but that it was inspiring because she and her husband were trying to adopt in Ireland and they’d been on a waiting list for over a year. She said our story gave her hope and made her smile and she was glad I had walked in that morning.

I learned a lot of things when I was overseas. I learned about cultures and languages and history and methods of travel. I learned what orejas a la plancha means (pigs ears…don’t order it) and how thin hostel mattresses can be. I learned how you can live on zero sleep and still feel more alive than you’ve ever felt. But what surprised me the most was that our story did translate…it didn’t matter that I didn’t speak the language or that some words only elicited confused smiles and shoulder shrugs.

Love is palpable. Especially the love I have for you and The B’s…it doesn’t need to be verbalized to be felt.

All of these people I told our story to, they have dreams of that kind of love too. They hope and they dream of beautiful, curly haired children that they want to love someday. Different people from different countries with different languages, all with the same desires. So different in culture, but so similar in heart. We are not alone. Love…it really is the universal language. That discovery — even if it had been the only thing I learned — would have made the entire trip worth it. I thank you and Europe for teaching me that.

Oh, and just so you know, ‘adoption’ in French is the same as in English. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about translating it after all :)

“The most important thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

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Beauty in the Breakdown

18 Dec

Dear Little Man,

One thing that you will someday learn — as unfortunate as that may be — is that news of a tragedy spreads like wildfire. With today’s social media craze, it takes milliseconds to share news of any kind. I heard about a recent tragedy around midday last Friday, December 14th. I logged onto Facebook for fun, read a few vague but concerning posts and gathered enough info to learn that it had been a school shooting. A quick Google search told me the rest. Shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. Twenty-six dead, twenty of them children. All of those children were younger than Sports Man is now.

And then, I did what every other parent in the country did: I thought of my own child.  The light of my life, the sunshine in my heart, the force behind my continued existence. I thought of you, Liam. Without you, I would have nothing. That’s the magic (and the terror) behind having kids…you’ve lived your entire life without them and as soon as you have one, you’re not sure how you ever functioned before they were around.

There is a quote that I thought of in the aftermath of that sad, sad day. It goes like this:

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Right now, there are 20 sets of parents in Connecticut who have lost their hearts, and the hearts of people around the world break for them. I know mine did. My heart broke for those poor parents because I thought of you, and I wondered how in the world I could be expected to go on living if you couldn’t. In all of the details and press releases I’ve read about the children who died, it’s been mostly aunts or uncles or grandparents who comment. I can’t help but think that’s because the parents just don’t have the words yet. How could they? It can’t seem possible yet.

All of those Connecticut parents — or any parent who has survived the loss of a child — is a miraculous sort of hero to me. I imagine that they possess a type of strength that is simply indescribable in its vastness and its depth.  It must be, to be able to survive something like that.

Without you, my beautiful boy, I would disintegrate, and nothing would console me. Everyone always says, “Our hearts go out to the victims,” but what does that even mean? In all honesty, it probably doesn’t mean much at this point. Those 20 sets of parents, that entire town is so enveloped in grief, it must be hard to see outside of it. But now I know what it means, because if I could give part of my heart to another mother who has lost her own, I would. I wish I could.

But you are my heart. You are walking around outside my body and it has never been scarier than it is right now. I have never imagined losing you and suddenly, that fear is not only haunting my nightmares, but my news-feed as well. That Friday, I read about those poor children and the teachers who died to protect them, and I cried. Being separated from you hadn’t hurt that much since the first few months after you were born. For the first time in a long time, I hated that you were two hours away. It usually seems so short but last Friday, it felt like too much distance to bear.

So I texted J. I texted her and I told her to give you extra kisses and hugs from me, from your Nay-Nay. And then she sent me this:

Sleeping Baby

You were sleeping peacefully in your car seat, tired after a morning of Christmas shopping. I have never been so grateful to see a picture of you. I just needed to see you, to look at your face, and somehow, J knew that. I ended up telling her about the Connecticut tragedy shortly after (she hadn’t heard yet). I have no doubt that her heart was heavy with prayers as she sent Sports Man off to school yesterday morning.

Not truly being able to “raise” you, I’ve never thought of myself as the “traditional parent,” though I certainly think of myself as a mother. But this past Friday, I joined the ranks of parents all over the world, as our thoughts immediately went to our sons and daughters, no matter their age. Last Friday, we cried for our own children, along with the 20 that were lost that day…their light, love and potential taken so much sooner than it should have been.

I know I’ve said it a million times, but I’m going to say it a billion more, including now: I love you, Liam Hudson. I love you with my whole heart, with my whole soul, with everything I have. Your life will forever mean more to me than my own. I could not be more grateful for your existence or for the wonderful family you that surrounds you.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.”

The Teacher and the Student

20 Feb

Do you remember me mentioning “The Handbook?” It’s how my parents always used to explain why they did what they did when it came to me…it was “in the parenting handbook.”

Now as we’ve discussed, you did not actually come with a handbook or any other kind of cheat sheet. But before I had you, before I even really considered whether or not I wanted to be a mother someday, I just assumed that it was every parent’s job to teach their children. Of course, what you taught your children could vary, but the fact that it was your job to teach something to them was just set in stone.

This weekend, I got to watch you while The B’s went to a local tourist attraction that we have in my hometown. We watched Elmo ( a lot of Elmo), played with a toy kitchen that I had when I was little, played in the bathroom sink, played the piano and did a lot of other little stuff in between. And I got to teach you some things – how to lock and unlock the door to the porch, how to turn the lights on and off on the lawn mower (Pop-pop 3 helped with that one). True, they’re little things, but we taught them to you and you picked them up pretty fast.

I have known for a while that I have the ability to teach you things –  that thanks to your observational skills, I was a role model to you. But one of the beautiful things about a parent-child relationship, especially ours, is that the learning is not just one-sided. Believe it or not, at the young age of 19 months (as of Wednesday), you have actually taught me quite a few things too.

On a small scale, you’ve taught me a lot of little things. That climbing the stairs – over and over and over again – can be fun (when I’m not terrified for your safety). You’ve taught me that splashing around in the sink can be a rather entertaining activity. You taught me that things that aren’t designed to be play toys (i.e. measuring cups, keys, etc.) can most definitely be play toys. You taught me a new way to say “hot dog” and “tractor” (“dot dog” and “at-too”). You taught me that we should all play now and sleep later. You reminded me that I used to love Sesame Street. You reminded me that when you’re little, every day is truly a new day.

Aside from these things, I’ve also learned quite a few big, life lessons from you.

The first one you taught me was not to be afraid of babies. embarrassing as this is to admit, I was mildly terrified of infants before I had you. I thought they were adorable (like every other woman in the world), but I didn’t like holding them and if I interacted with them, I preferred it to be from a safe distance. They always cried when I got near them, and nothing scared me more than a crying infant. But then there was you and you were mine and it all went away. I learned how to change a diaper. I learned that bouncing you when you cried would calm you down. I learned that if a baby cries when you hold it, it doesn’t mean that the baby hates you or that you somehow harmed it. Even though I read a million books and Googled a million things about how to be a mother, you were the one who actually taught me. You teach me that every time I see you.

The biggest thing I think I’ve learned from having you as my son is that I should take joy in the little things in life. When you were figuring out how to turn on the lawn mower lights, you had to watch Pop-pop 3 do it a couple of times – the first time you did it by yourself, you looked up at me and gave me the biggest smile! And I found myself absolutely thrilled. I was smiling and laughing and just utterly excited…about turning on the lawn mower’s headlights. It sounds silly, but those are the things that you find happiness in.

Everything is new to you – it’s why you do things over and over again, because it’s so exciting to have figured this “new thing” out. So unlike most 20-year olds, I get excited about lawn mower headlights, and turning keys in locks, and walking up and down the stairs. To you, everything is something worth discovering, and that is a kind of magic that can be lost on adults. We forget how fun and exciting the world can be because we assume that given our age and experience, we’ve figured it all out. Seeing the world through your eyes…it’s refreshing and beautiful, in a way. And though it’s humbling, you’ve taught me that maybe I don’t know it all.

As soon as The B’s and I figure out our next rendezvous date, I’ll start counting down my days again. But until then, I’ll just think of you when I use keys or stairs or bathroom sinks. And, most likely, all of the minutes in between.

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