Sunday, January 8, 2017

It's Been So Long

Yes, such a very long time since I posted.  Over two years ago.  I doubt I have anyone reading this blog anymore, but I'm going to pick it up again, nonetheless.

I think I would like to post some photos of my kids from this last year that make me smile for different reasons.  My kids are average kids with average failings.  I will not represent them as possessing any more gifts or goodness or potential than what I believe all children have.  Their worth comes from them being the only one of their kind, anywhere.  And as such, they have a unique purpose here and a place that can be filled by no other.  This is just a peek at the place they fill in our family.

This is my oldest.  And as the oldest, it has been her special responsibility and burden to "break in" her parents, introducing us to each stage of development in a child's life.  This is her at the end of one of those stages--getting her driver's license.  It took a while for us to let her start the process because it is different than what it once was and I had to be told many, many times exactly what needs to be done and when. And, once started, it took a whole year for us to get her from having a permit to having an actual license because the required driving instruction is EXPENSIVE.  She has been very patient with our faltering dives into each of these stages, and rather than defiantly challenging our reluctance to let her move ahead, has instead quietly taken the opportunities to demonstrate her competence as they have come.   She's a very good driver.

Here is my second oldest.  He is in the orthodontist chair about to get his braces put on.  This particular orthodontist has won the patronage of the entire Ryan family thus far, treating our oldest child, their cousin, aunt and grandma.  In fact, by sheer coincidence, when he was in the chair to be evaluated before getting his braces on (which he had to wait to do until his older sister had hers off and paid for), we realized his aunt was in the next chair getting hers off.  He has also had to be patient and break us in since he is the oldest boy, and he is also not like his sister, so we have learned new things from him.  I get to teach his class in Sunday School.  I assumed my presence would cause him to be reticent to participate and answer questions, but he is also not like me.  He participates and answers questions with complete sincerity.  In fact, if I were to pick a word to describe him, it would be "sincere."  He is sincerely trying to be a good person.

Here is my quiet child #3.  Funny thing about him is that before he was born, I was worried that, because he was the third, he would reject the status quo set by the other two and challenge me in new, inexplicable ways.  I was worried that I wouldn't understand him.  I wasn't at all prepared for a child who is so much like me, but much better.  Here he is sitting with his trombone (I also played trombone) after a Christmas parade that he marched in.  He has never had private lessons, but he practices faithfully and without any reminding needed.  At the beginning of the school year he told me, with a smile and a little bit of a smirk, "Guess what Mom, I made 1st chair trombone. Now ask me how many trombone players there are in my class."  "How many?" "Two!"  This December he tried out for the annual Honor Band group that they form from band students throughout the area.  The group, once assembled, practices a couple times, then puts on a performance.  He practiced and stoically tried out despite being very nervous.  He can be pretty insecure, so when he came out of the tryout saying that he actually felt pretty good about how well he did, I was pleased that he was being so positive and felt pretty sure that his uncharacteristic confidence would be rewarded.  And then he didn't make it.  And the 2nd chair trombonist who is a year younger than him did.  He did his best to be gracious about it in front of his classmate, but I could tell it really stung.  We left quickly and there were quiet tears on the drive home.  I told him that this rejection was not the final statement on how well he could play.  It's just a a suggestion that there might be some things he could do better on if he was willing to keep working at it.  I was pleased to see him silently put this setback behind him and continue to faithfully practice his trombone as he has always done.

My fourth child came along and showed me that there was still so much for me to learn about parenting.  She thinks outside my box, and our relationship has not always been smooth, but it has been enlightening.  This last summer my mother-in-law said she would take me on an overnight trip to see Hearst Castle as a birthday present.  We set a date and excitedly planned, and then she got sick.  Very, very sick.  I figured the trip was off, but she so generously suggested that I should still go, but that I should take Meriel instead (I really don't like traveling by myself).  After some hesitation I decided to go for it.  And in doing so I was able to learn some wonderful things--first, that I could handle being the driver and navigate my way through the trip, and second, that when Meriel and I are one-on-one and a few external stressors are removed, we get along just fine.  I was able to say "yes" more often and she took the no's more easily.  We explored Santa Barbara and Hearst Castle and seafood pot pie (her idea) and olallieberry pie (my idea) and Elephant Seal Beach and had one of those nice vacations together that let you know that the two of you are going to be OK.

This is my wiggly fifth child.  His wiggly-ness doesn't cause behavioral issues, but I felt it would still be nice for him to learn to direct his excess energy towards productive ends.  So we've been putting him in different sports.  Not with the intent to turn him into a sports superstar, but just to enjoy physicality with a purpose.  This is a picture of his soccer game.  His soccer team lost every game this season.  The first one I went to was like a beginning scene out of the Mighty Ducks.  The other team was there more than half an hour before the game doing precision drills.  Our team was lacking a coach until 5 minutes into game time, and the players were filling the time by jumping on the bleachers and accidentally kicking balls over the fence into neighboring yards (our coach was good, he just experienced confusion about the game start time on this particular day).  The other team's coaches (they had two!) looked like they should be coaching high school football, and one could be heard yelling throughout the entire game.  Some of it was instruction, some was encouragement, but some made me cringe.  They obliterated our team, and I wondered how Mitchell would handle it, but following their after-game talk from the coach, Mitchell came bouncing over like nothing disappointing had happened.  In the car he even said, "I must be the luckiest boy in the world!"  Insteresting declaration. I asked, "Why?  Because you get to play soccer?"  And he said, "Yes, and because our coach doesn't yell at us.  He understands that we're still learning."  That's Mitchell.  He's very good at seeing the positives and just enjoying life.

Oh, Declan.  My sixth.  He has also come into our family to push us in new directions.  He is impulsive and emotional and frustrating and tiring and also a lot of fun to watch.  This is his Kindergarten picture, and I laugh every time I see it.  Most likely he is not trying to be funny here, it's probably a sincere effort to do what the photographer asked.  But it's being made by an intense little boy who is often quite oblivious to how far off the mark he is.  In spite of this intensity and obliviousness, he's doing fine in school.  He does not suffer from shyness, is not afraid of engaging others, and social interaction appears to stimulate him in mostly a good way.  With these rare qualities which he did NOT get from his parents, he brings a lot of understanding and balance to our family.

My seventh child, a little girl, came when I was hoping to add another girl to our family.  She spent the first couple years of her life contentedly sitting on someone's lap with a thumb in her mouth just watching what was happening around her.  When she finally started venturing off of the laps, she revealed a bubbly, bouncy personality with a tad of kooky and a thirst for exploration of the physical world.  She has been my dirtiest toddler, by far.  When I found that the next baby after her would also be a girl, I was pleased, but I also groaned because I knew that meant I couldn't throw the near-ruined toddler girl clothes away, I would have to clean them.  She may be dirty, but she's still a little girl with a love of ponies and sparkly hair bands, and the whole family finds her adorable.

This is my eighth. She was, in a way, unplanned.  I had been trying for the next baby but then had three miscarriages and also suffered some issues with anxiety that left me mentally shaky and on medication.  Tim and I had decided that it would probably be prudent to wait before trying again, but lo and behold, I was already pregnant.  The pregnancy was emotionally trying and physically exhausting.  During the first trimester when I found myself in the room of an ultrasound tech tearfully awaiting to see if the symptoms I was having heralded yet another miscarriage, I told Tim, "I know this is not the right time to make such a decision, but I don't know if I want to try to have any more children.  I don't know if I can do this anymore."  Baby was still there, I was able to work off of the anxiety medication,  and eventually she came to us big and healthy and full of smiles.  Her presence has been healing.  We have all been soaking up the dimples and hugs, and she has given me the courage to attempt to welcome the next baby into the family.

I won't deny that bringing these babies into the world tested me in ways that I didn't foresee.  I didn't and couldn't understand the sacrifice involved beforehand.  But though I have moments of heavy doubt about my capability, or times I worry about their choices and future, or periods where I sincerely mourn the loss of my personal time and ambitions, it remains obvious to me that each of these children were meant to be here in our family.  There are no regrets.


MaryAnn said...

This is sweet. I appreciate that you can be positive while also being real about your children's different personalities and quirks. And Declan's picture - priceless.

Rachel Law said...

Boyd and I laughed at Declan's picture for a while too.
It's good to see you posting again! I've missed it! Your most faithful followers never doubted you'd be back ;)

leannelaw said...

What a precious post. I loved reading about each one. I admire you for your courage and positive attitude and happy in your ability to see the blessings through the trials. Can't wait to come and be with you and your awesome family when you welcome #9.