Love – the final candle in the Advent wreath. Each week I’ve been writing around the themes of Advent, and this week I kept thinking what I would write about in terms of love.
It’s actually more complicated that one would imagine. Probably because love is actually really complicated.
I could throw around a bunch of cliché’s about how I love my kids – how I love watching them engage in sports, love seeing twinkling smiles light up their faces, love their excitement about hunting for hidden Advent Gift Bags and the fight over who gets to open it tonight! There is so much I love about the boys.
Yet, sometimes love is really hard. It started early with this crew – each of the boys came to me from hospital discharge – age 2 days, 2 days, and 5 weeks (for methadone withdrawal). Each boy was “placed” in my house as a “foster child,” which means I was tasked with “treating them as if they are your own child and yet be willing to give them up at the drop of a sudden phone call.” So you try this odd sense of love – I love this little baby, but he is not “my” little baby, so I don’t want to get too attached in order to not break my heart too much when he leaves. Hmmmm.
And I ask you? How is it possible to love and not “love/attach” at the same time? Because you do love – the soft skin, the first smiles, the nestling of the downy head in the crook of your neck. And you love watching the baby learn to coo and sit and crawl and walk and talk-back. You love it all….while you wait for the important “milestones” of foster-to-adopt: decrease parental visitations, “change of goal” (when the agency stops trying to get the baby back to a biological parent and instead starts making other long term plans), termination of parental rights, appeal period, and finally “cleared for adoption.” And then you await the court date – and stand excitedly as the judge pronounces you mother for life! And one day, a birth certificate arrives with the child’s (new) name and right under that: Mother – Lynne Williams. Wow.
That is patient love. That is love which has survived the trial period. Love which has built up strength and resilience. Love that is true.
Now that the boys are all moving out of the toddler period, a new kind of love is settling upon the household. The “I love you, but….” kind of love. I love you, but wish you had not thrown that huge plastic car mountain down the staircase just because you liked the noise it made the first time The Rascal threw it down. I love you, but could do without the whine, the screams, the deal-making attempts (which honestly, make no sense at all, Super Tall Guy). I love you, but would really like it if you stayed in your bed the whole night….rather than smothering me in my slumber.
This is also that true love. The love that says – no matter what you do, I still love you. And the love that says – no matter what I do (get mad, frown, discipline you, go to work, seem busy on the phone), no matter what, I still love you.
Each night as I tuck the boys into bed, I whisper to them, “I love you. Forever. For always, and no matter what.”
My gift to them each and every day – complete, unconditional love. Their gift to me – bouncy, bumbling, blubbering kisses and hugs and love.
Love at Christmas and every day of the year.