When Your Children Adult Well
There were two memorable dates for Nathaniel and our family last week. Monday marked five years since his adoption was finalized. Friday was the three-year anniversary of his airway surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. And we made a new memory. Last weekend all of our children, their spouses, and our granddaughters were together. We piled on a couch and had some photos taken. I was sitting in the middle front, and when I glanced around at the group behind me, I caught my breath. I wasn’t prepared for the collective impact of seeing all seven of our adult children and their families together. After everyone returned to their own lives and it was just Rich, Nathaniel and I at home, I thought a lot about the anniversaries in Nathaniel’s life. We couldn’t have done either without our adult children supporting us.
Adoption isn’t easy. It can be heart wrenching and hard on a whole family. Adopting a child with Nathaniel’s level of need has tasked every ounce of Rich’s and my being and changed every relationship we have. We are different as a married couple, parents, and individuals now than we were five years ago. Even our sleep and eating patterns have been modified. And some days, when we don’t have time to eat or sleep because Nathaniel’s care is too intense, our very ability to think has changed. Our older children have seen and felt these realities the closest. They worry about us. Though they don’t say it, we know they have questioned our decision to adopt. Not for lack of love for Nathaniel, but out of concern for their parents.
But despite those concerns, our older children have been a constant source of encouragement and support in Nathaniel’s life and our role as his parents. They have been at our side when we’ve rescued Nathaniel from near death and oxygen deprivation accidents. They’ve brought coffee and meals to the hospital. They’ve gotten down on the floor and played Legos and Nerf guns when we are too tired. They’ve driven hours to spend an afternoon with Nathaniel because he misses them or to attend his birthday parties. They video chat when they can’t be home. They’ve used days off work to give us caregiver breaks. They’ve text and called to check on us when most people check on Nathaniel. They’ve followed Nathaniel’s public Facebook page and by liking posts said, “I’m up to date. Keep on keeping on Mom and Dad.” Not all of them do all these things all the time, but they don’t have to. There are seven of them and four spouses. Combined they are a powerful force of strength and love not only for Rich and me, but for each other. More than once they have set aside their need for parental support and presence or stepped into each other’s lives on our behalf.
Perhaps this is the most sacrificial choice they make. Our older children have released us as parents to use our skills and talents to help someone other than them. That is true adulting.
Jon, Wes, Bailee, Andrew, Peter, Ben, Josiah and your families - thank you for being behind us. Nathaniel is the luckiest little guy in the world to have you as family.
Photo by Noelle Becker