Last Saturday we sat around a long table, just ten of us, drawing on paper placemats as we waited for our calzones to arrive. We laughed, told stories, and enjoyed being together. Nobody spilled their drink, complained about the food, or crawled under the table. This was a date with our big kids and was one of the best uses of our time and money that we’ve made in a long time.
When we were in Montana last month, Russ and I had time to reflect on our life as a family. The most significant thing that came to us was the impact our adoptions have had on our older children. When our life began its downward spiral, we were struggling to cope with the needs of our children from “hard places” while parenting our little ones who were nine, five, three, and two at the time. Our big kids were often left to fend for themselves.
Some of them reacted by pitching in and trying to help. Others hid themselves from the chaos. Some spent as much time away from home as they reasonably could. We understood — if Russ and I could have run away, we just might have done it.
We knew our kids were struggling to deal with the life we now had. Our dream of adopting orphans in order to love them and give them a family seemed to mock us at every turn. We worried about our older kids, but then the next crisis would hit, or the next appointment, or the next set of phone calls and we didn’t have the time or energy to do what we most needed to do, which was stop and talk to them, ask how they were doing, see if we could ease the pressure off of them somehow.
In many ways, we failed them. I’m not saying that to be overly dramatic, it is the hard truth.
To their credit, they survived. Between them they graduated from high school, started college, started medical school, fell in love, got married, took jobs, learned to play the guitar, earned their Boy Scout Eagle awards, played sports, made friends, joined youth group, and somehow managed to continue living the life of teens and young adults.
A few weeks ago I sent them a group email asking them to set aside the evening of Nov. 6th for a Big Kid date with Mom and Dad. We hired a babysitter for the first time in ages and took our six oldest out to dinner at our favorite calzone place. We talked, ate, did some planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and generally enjoyed being together.
After dinner we came home and gathered in the family room for a Big Kid family meeting. We talked to them about the changes in their lives as the result of the choice we made to dive head first into loving and caring for orphans, and ultimately to become an adoptive family. We gave them each an opportunity to talk without interruption, although in our family it was nearly impossible for everyone to be quiet. Russ and I were surprised by some of what our children shared, and so very thankful.
It was a precious time – invaluable really. We wanted to hear their hearts and I think we’ve made a good start. This is the beginning of giving them more of ourselves; we don’t want to cast them aside in our efforts to rescue our other children. They are all God’s gifts to us – each and every one of them. We love them more than words can say and we are honored to call them our children.
How have your older children been impacted by the addition of their new siblings? Have you found ways to nurture your relationships with them? Please share with us. We can help each other, and in turn, love our children better.
Have a great start to your week. I’m still struggling along with this virus, but I think I’m improving.
Encourage one another,
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