Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Small, Important Moments

I just finished putting Matthew down for a nap. I think it might be my favorite time of day, especially during the summer when the sunshine warms our attic bedroom and the air feels still, sticky almost, as the fan blows on us and I soothe my boy to sleep.

Last Friday was the one-year anniversary of Matthew’s lip repair at Children’s Hospital. When I think back a year ago, I’m overwhelmed by how little we knew our son during that season. I remember the first night home from the hospital when Aaron, and then I, in turn, slept on the hard kitchen floor alongside Matthew, whose only comfort was to be found with his cheek pressed deeply into the cool, firm linoleum. There was so little I knew about him back then—so many ways I longed to comfort and care for him, but I always felt like I came up short.

And how much more fully I know my boy now, this year later, as I feel his warmth against my body and his breath wet against the skin of my chest. I love that moment when he crosses from awake to asleep, the final shudder, the weight of his body when it’s overtaken by sleep. I’ve come to treasure these nap moments—this time to sit silently and know that my body and my voice comforts my boy like no other.

Raising our first two children (both biological) hasn’t been easy, but with Matthew I am more aware of how all the small moments add up to a bigger kind of thing—a force of love and family and parenting that I was oblivious to with my older kids. Sure, I put the hours in with both of them from the first moment they drank milk from my breast. But the time just went by naturally, and I didn’t think much of the minutes and hours and days that both Aaron and I spent raising them.

With Matthew, it's different. I think it’s because he came to us having lived 18 months already—18 months that are unknown to us and appear to be a less than ideal environment for nurture and growth. Everything we do feels like a catch up right now, each hug or snuggle a chance to undo what was done to him in those early months.

I look ahead with anticipation to Matthew’s third birthday (which also happens to be Thanksgiving Day this year) because it’s a point of crossing for us—on that day, Matthew will have been part of our family as long has he wasn’t. That day, and every day after, marks a life for Matthew where our family—his family—takes on the bigger part of his history. It’s a good day—to celebrate his life and birthday, to celebrate 18 months of having him home with us—and to be glad that most of his life he will live in our family as a Russell. The orphanage is part of his story, but it’s just a small part—getting smaller and smaller as the years go on.

And what becomes larger and larger is this environment where he is loved and snuggled and tickled, where moms and dads don’t leave him, where brothers and sisters help him grow in a rich and nurturing learning environment.

I’ve heard it said that “time is the great healer.” I don’t know how true that is for everyone else, but I am convinced that one of the most important aspects to this adoption is the passing of time and the small moments that add up to a lifetime of love and affection.

It’s been 14 months with Matthew, and each of those months is comprised of moments like today: snuggles, hugs, laughter, babbles, playtime—and some frustrations and challenges too.

But a boy is made of all these things, spun into being from love and hardship and the solid presence of people who will love him always—and a family is knit together this way too.

Bath time for the boys

Playing at the park with Riley

A hike down a trail with friends

Signing "more" to big sister Maya

The threesome on the trampoline in Missoula

Exploring Aunt Chrisy's backyard