Monday, May 4, 2015

Remembering to just "be"

This weekend Aaron and I were listening to a sermon on parenting. We were listening while driving the kids to John Deere Days, and we were only able to get in the first ten minutes or so. But in those first ten minutes, I was challenged by a thought that sadly hadn't crossed my mind in a while.

"Your kids need to know that you enjoy just BEING with them."

After our morning adventure was over, Eli was tucked (snoring loudly) into his bed. Carter got suited up to go help Daddy with an errand in the big dump truck. Addison was in her room tossing and turning, unable to sleep (no doubt after her very first taste of soda at the morning's festivities).

The thought of "just BEING" that I had been chewing on all morning jumped forefront to my mind. I mixed up some of the kids favorite "juice" (avocado kale fruit smoothie) in the blender. As I finished blending, I heard a sweet voice shout, "JUICE!" from Addison's room.

I placed two glass cups filled to the brim with delicious juice on the deck and then tiptoed to her room to break her out of naptime.

"Shhhhh" I said. "The baby is sleeping. Shhhhh."
She very quickly mimicked me, "Shhhhhhh" with her finger pressed against her lips.

She wrapped her arms around my neck and I tiptoed past the baby out onto the deck with her warm head pressing against my cheek.

"Let's have a juice together." I told her, and she beamed. "JUICE!"

The sun was shining (halleluiah!), the air was fresh, the wind was like the subtle tickling part of a massage. Addison sat in her chair and drank her juice like a pro. I sat across from her and asked her about her week.
Oh she talked about school and T and reading books and coloring. She then begged to go to the car to go to the pool to swim (this request was accompanied by very specific arm motions). She then talked about Ewi and Carter and Daddy. And then there was chatter about her juice and the straw in her juice. Then she asked to go to the pool again. And for a towel that she would of course need at the pool.

I complimented her on how well she was drinking with her straw (the child's strong need for encouragement was almost mentioned in the first ten minutes of this sermon) and how much I LOVED drinking juice with her and hearing about her week.
She kept on chatting. Of course, you must understand that conversation with Addison these days includes a lot of strong clue words...with the need for the listener to fill in some gaps. For example:

"She begged to go to the pool to swim" sounded like,

"Go car. Pool. Swim." *arm motions*

When you travel the road of a nonverbal child, you begin to appreciate these strong clue words and understand the value that can be found in very little bits of communication. That's all it takes to start to really get to know a child who spent years not being able to tell you anything at all.
After we were done with our juice, she wanted to go "BOUNCE!" on the trampoline (after I finally convinced her that the pool was NOT open yet).

At first we walked with our matching pedicures digging into the grass together. But she was quite insistent "SHOES! Addisie's shoes!" So we got Addisie's shoes...and then when she didn't want to walk down the hill, I taught her how to roll down the hill. She got a bit tense...but laughed at herself at her efforts. (I so saw myself in her here. That is exactly what I do when I learn something new.)

We got to the trampoline and she bounced and laughed and bounced some more. Then we held hands, counted to 3 together, and then bounced at the same time. Oh she laughed and laughed and laughed and I desperately wished I could have somehow captured her face in that moment with the backdrop of the perfectly blue sky framing her exuberant beauty. But it was one of those moments that I didn't DARE ruin with a picture. It was a moment that I would tuck away in my not share with anyone because it was too precious to capture in a photo. Not to mention...the "feeling" of intense love and happiness that I had in that moment made the picture. When can we start to capture feelings in a shareable way?

"AGAIN!" She demanded time and time again (once she stopped giggling).

"Bounce by yourself. Mommy's tired!"

"No. Mommy do it. Bounce with Addisie. 2....3!" (for some reason...she had something against poor 1)

Who can resist?

And so we bounced and bounced. And for each bounce....there were ten laughs.

It seems to me that as a parent my agenda includes so much teaching, guiding, disciplining, lecturing...that it is SO easy to forget the other side of things that my kids need JUST as much.

Addison is more than Down syndrome. She is much more than a little girl who is learning to read, dress herself, be kind to other children, and pick up after herself. Addison is this amazing little person who is fun to hang out with. Her personality makes me smile...and then laugh...and then smile some more. Her personality is overwhelmingly happy...with a touch of stubbornness...a large cup of mischief...sprinkled generously with chocolate.

"Addison...I LOVE bouncing with you."  She beamed once again. And then laughed once again. And then said, "AGAIN!" once again.
As my kids grow, I don't know what their futures hold. I don't know what they will grow up to be. I don't know what mistakes I will cry over. I don't know what successes I will praise them over. But I hope...each step of the way....each year older....each day wiser...that we spend a lot of time just "being" together. Enjoying each other's company, taking time to appreciate who that person IS beyond just "this is the person I need to shape to send out into the world", and holding the seeming stagnant moments as the most dear because that is when this "being" can really flourish.

It felt like I was bottling up joy in a way that I would remember forever. I hope that as parenting evolves for us and new difficulties come our way and the tear-out-your-hair moments intensify...that I never ever forget this.

Juice. Bouncing. So simple. And life changing.

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