Today I am celebrating the 18th anniversary of my first full day of being a mom! I have to admit today has been a bit more relaxing than that very long Saturday in 1994 when Jeff and I looked at our not so tiny 10 pound baby girl and with wide-eyed fear asked each other, “What the heck do we do now?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am grateful for the baby steps God has granted me in the raising of my children. I have realized the term “baby steps” is not a word reserved for the first few days of upright mobility. Baby steps, to me, is a phenomenal gift of time throughout my parenting years that has made major events and transitions in my children’s life just a little easier to cope with. For instance, potty training didn’t happen in a day. Baby steps. Monsters under the beds didn’t leave with a single sweep of a flashlight. Baby steps. A year or two of training bras guided my brain to wrap around the idea that my little girl was growing up. Baby steps. Months after months of peach fuzz preceded the very first shave with a razor. Baby steps. My teenagers didn’t learn to drive by simply handing them the keys to our car. Baby steps. Empathy and grace was not taught over a weekend. Baby steps. Every transition of my children’s childhood has been a result of unwearied, gradual, hard earned “baby steps” that eventually allowed them to grow into the person they are today.
For those of you who have known Hannah all her life, you may remember how she was voted “Most Likely to be a Cruise Director” by the moms of her playgroup fifteen years ago because of her ability to rally the troops and take care of business. During those Barney days, her baby steps started her transformation toward becoming the amazing leader she is today both in our family as well as among her peers as an athlete, a student, a community leader, and a school leader, She has her feet pointed toward the future, and the baby steps she takes today are guiding her toward graduation this June, Seattle University in the fall, and a certain exciting future holding the hands of others as they take their tentative baby steps in their fragile lives.
One of the most bittersweet feelings when parenting a child adopted at an older age is the number of years you feel cheated for not having that child in your life. There are many “firsts” we missed with Zak and Noah. I can make a decent guess, though, of the steps that carried them through their first few years of life. Zak, I am sure was analytical, logical, and easily entertained by the simplest of mechanical things. Within the first hours of meeting six-year-old Zak in China, he assembled a Lego ship without pause or directions. He also created an intricately detailed picture from a simple thumbprint. Today he still is our go-to-guy for electronic assembly/repair as well as dead critter carcass removal. His artwork continues to amaze me as well! I am humbled at the gifts his birthparents passed on to him, both in character and talents. I am also very much aware that had he not toddled those very delicate baby steps, teetering between life and death as a young child, I would not have him as my son today.
Noah most likely learned to talk at a very young age. His gift of gab today, with both young and old, is epic! I am sure he loved being loved as he does today and also relished lending a helping hand. He is the wisest, most caring nine-year-old I have ever encountered. It is through Zak and Noah I truly appreciated the grace of every day and the need to celebrate and embrace even the smallest of baby steps daily because I know first hand the tears, turmoil, and patient hours it has taken for each and every baby step they have taken while in our family.
In less than two months we will be taking one of the biggest and in truth, most tentative baby step we have ever taken as a family when we watch our little girl graduate from high school and leave for college. Now, I know this did not happen over night, but many times I ask myself, “How did I get to this place?” It’s then I realize it is because of the accumulated baby steps throughout the years…some alone…some arm in arm with the people we love. For all who have stepped stride for stride with our family over the years, from the first cautious shuffle toward the doors of a pre-school to the first exhausted steps off an airplane and onto American soil, to what is to come… steps across our threshold and out into the world…thank you for your friendship on this journey of a million baby steps.
And guaranteed many years from now, when the last of our kids are out of the house, I am certain Jeff and I are going to look at each other in wide-eyed fear and ask ourselves once again that same question we asked 18 years ago today, “What the heck do we do now?” And then very cautiously we will take one tiny baby step forward…