Inhale in, slowly and hold. Exhale for four as your roll your shoulders back, releasing the tension held there. Inhale….slowly release…..
I run through this breathing exercise with my students before every exam. It helps
calm the heart and focus the brain while bringing peace to their hearts. It’s so simple, I find myself doing it when I feel overwhelmed and it’s a trick I’ve tried to teach my kids when the world gets too big and their emotions too strong for their bodies to carry. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
We’ve had three good days. Three. In a row. I cannot explain to you what a balm that is to my heart. The one that feels like it is slowly turning to stone because it is easier to not acknowledge the constant pain than it is to let yourself be hurt over and over again. And I wonder if that what parenting is meant to be, a heart broken wide open, aching to heal and mangled and bruised with scars and stitches. I can’t help but think that this is how we’re meant to be-our hearts open for what should be, but isn’t.
Break my heart for what breaks yours.
On Saturday we worked in the garden. It had been a hard morning. One where there was lashing out and screaming so much that his throat was raw, his voice hoarse from the effort of it. And when he was finally calm I sent him to his room with a pen and some paper and told him to write a letter to his birth parents. Out of all of them, he lingers on the biology. When he was finished he joined us, hands in the dirt as we laid our garden to rest for the winter. It is easy to talk when your hands are busy. I’ve always been open with my kids when they ask questions about their beginnings, about their birth parents. I try to be gentle with the ones who carried them that I’ve never met, so far into the system were my children when they came home. I am gentle, but I am also honest. Two nights before he had watched me cry as I told him how I ached for his birth mom, that I cannot imagine the heartbreak she must feel, and how badly I don’t want him to follow that same path-to live a life filled with the same pain of his heritage. Again in the garden I told him this-that we are not meant to live a life away from our given family, that this is a piece of the shattered image of this world. But in all the ashes and sorrow, we are blessed to pick up the pieces together.
All through our foster care and adoption journey I wanted someone to understand. A group of people who just got it. Who could relate to what it was like to raise kids who didn’t share your biology, but pulled at your heart and who often acted and reacted in ways that were beyond your realm of understanding. I searched for these people. I looked for them in friends and co-workers. I tried to mold my ‘mom friends’ into this role so that I didn’t (again) feel so out of the ordinary as a woman, as a mother. But it didn’t work. My tears and frustrations fell on ears that weren’t deaf so much as frightened. When I would talk about what parenting looked like in our home, I would be met with looks that seemed to read flat out terror-as if I were a pariah and they were afraid their family may catch something from ours. That their normal life may end up as catty-wompus as ours suddenly had. I have yet to meet a family who just jumped in as we did. Not with a babe or small child, but with a school aged kiddo-blind leaping from just the two of us to a family of three with a walking, talking person to call our own. We need community, and finally, for the first time ever I think we’re finding it.
It has been nine years of taking things one day, one hour, one moment at a time. It is amazing the amount of growth that we’ve seen as our children have blossomed into incredible people. And it still breaks my heart at how much hurt remains. When knowing that all you can do is love them through it, and finally recognizing that I can’t fix everything and fixing it isn’t my job. I’m ill equipped to save the world. But I am equipped to love. One breath at a time.