“Even when I’m in trouble, you’s still smiling at me,” he says it as he sits in the time out chair. It’s not a sweet sentiment, but the words spit out, little capsules of anger shooting at me.
I smile bigger and kiss his cheek, tickle his neck, whisper like I have a secret just for him. “That’s because I love you so much.”
His arms are crossed, his mood spiky. So I nuzzle his neck, tickle his ribs. I know this goes against the grain of time out, but sometimes time-in is what he needs. He wiggles and I see a glimpse of a smile.
I pick him up, settle him into my shoulder and say, “You’re not in trouble because I don’t like you. You have time out because I love you so much and know you don’t want to be the kind of kid who . I snuggle with him until the timer goes off. We talk about how he might do things differently and he returns to play, with a smile and a soft heart.
We’ve seen remarkable growth in him since we’ve shifted our approach to time-in and smiling more. It’s not even been five months since he became part of our family. And yet, I think it’s impossible to love him more. Then he breathes and I know I’m wrong because I love him more. Every time he breathes, I love him more.
Friends of ours recently found out they’ve been matched with an 8 year old boy for adoption. She was talking with me about the fierce protection she already feels for him, how she loves him so much, yet hasn’t even met him yet.
And I understand. It is amazing love.
Before we adopted for the first time, there were many people who said things about whether we would love an adopted child the same as a biological child. Or they would consider their love for their biological child and find it impossible that someone could love an adopted child as much.
Now that we’re on the other side of the fence, people don’t say those things to us. Yet, I imagine they still think them. How can we love an 8 year old who has spent all but 5 months of his life without us? How can we love him as much as the others? How can we love the 4 year old who spends more time in tantrums than sweet cuddles? How can we love the aloof 6 year old? How can our love feel the same for the boy who didn’t grow in my body, yet I stood beside his birthmother during labor and cut the cord at birth?
I think the love we have as parents is impossible to understand. It doesn’t matter what body the child grew in or how long it takes to get him home to his forever family. Love is incomprehensible. I do know it is this:
There is a love that roots and grows in my heart for our children. It began even before I knew of their existence and it continues growing, minute by minute in remarkable magnitude It is impossible to understand. I just know my love for my children is not dependent on how they behave or the things they do — it grows second by second.
Even more impossible to understand is this is only a sliver of the love God has for us. He loves BIG. Sometimes it’s easy to question how love works. I think I’m going to stop trying to figure it out. The love I have for my children is too big to make sense. And this is okay. So rather than trying to figure out how amazing love works, I’m going to spend my time trying to love people BIG…and watch the impossible happen.