Today our son is six.
Yesterday he was born, I’m pretty sure. I mean, it feels like yesterday. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the weight of his newborn body in my arms, smells the newborn smell, remember the overwhelming cascade of emotions I felt that day, hear his first cries when he realized he was cold and wet.
Today he promised to always cuddle with me, even when he turns eighteen, and then he marched off to stomp in the snow, touch a snake and a turtle, and point out all the fun fish in the ponds at the conservatory during our field trip.
(he is also sitting on my lap as I write this post – not that he fits. for example, he needed new shoes this weekend: size five.)
We have kept today low-key. He picked out dinner and the now traditional favorite red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and sprinkles. But no party, no friends, no other family. And this is the happiest he has been on all of his birthdays. It could be coincidence? But it could also be that adoption + birthday = huge jumbled emotions. Not having to deal with those emotions via pretending to be happy or have a party is a relief, even if he can’t fully express that yet, at the tender age of six.
He told the total stranger working at the gardens it was his birthday. His classmates? Nope.
We are having a family dinner this weekend, but because it’s “far away” from his actual birthday, he doesn’t seem to mind (we will see Saturday). His big present is going to the inn at a state park next month for two nights (indoor swimming, crafts, fireplaces, indoor smores, nature center activities – unlimited attention from mommy & daddy – sweet!). That seems to be much better than a party, at this point.
I wish I could be one of those adoptive mothers who says adoption isn’t an issue, but that would be a lie. (and, personally, I think those women are lying, and doing a disservice to themselves, their children, and everyone who even considers adoption). Adoption certainly doesn’t deeply color every single aspect of our lives, but it certainly shades every aspect. I don’t rush to slap the “ADOPTION” label on every issue we encounter, either, but I certainly hold that sticker close and ready, reserving the option to use it whenever I deem it appropriate.
Six years of adoptive parenting doesn’t make me an expert, not by a long shot. But I am growing more comfortable in my adoptive mama skin – at least comfortable enough to ask the harder questions, have the harder conversations, hold my child’s hand through his pain and tears, and to never sweep any of it under the rug. I am getting better at making the right decisions for our family, even if it means disappointing people outside our family in the process, and recognizing that “our” family is just that – ours. God gave it to us, and we need to be responsible for it – protect it, shepherd it, guide it.
Tonight we will eat the specially chose dinner, eat the homemade iced cake, and giggle over something ridiculous. Keith will leave for work, and the birthday boy and I will snuggle under the electric blanket on my bed, because it’s supposed to be bitterly cold tonight. Three or four years ago I would have questioned “Did I do today right,” but today…if we pray, if we giggle, if we are warm and well-fed, if I play with my son…
We are doing this right.