photo credit: Troy Livesay
There seems to be a really fuzzy line that separates the things we should tell our kids about grown-up life and the things that we shouldn't. It always seems to me that other parents have a better understanding of where that line is. We always wonder if we somehow missed the class where you learn what facts to divulge and which ones to withhold. When did our babies turn into real people with real issues to process right alongside us? How did they evolve into human beings who are no longer blindly along for the ride, but instead thinking creatures who we must consider as we walk and talk through this crazy thing called life?
Tell children too much and you have kids carrying weights their little souls were never meant to carry and a fifth grader with an ulcer and bleeding cuticles. Tell too little and you run the risk of your kids feeling resentful, bitter, left out, believing their thoughts and their voice do not matter. We've been around youth groups and watched enough ABC Family to know these things to be true. We just don't feel smart enough to always know exactly what to do with these strange, gray pieces of life.
Days before Christmas, as Aaron and I were realizing our world was about to change drastically, we were really wishing there was a reference guide for times like these. What would the Cosby's do? Try as I may I could not think of any episodes that applied to our current situation. All of a sudden running home from school every single day to watch the Cosby Show felt like a fat waste of time.
Aaron and I sat on the floor next to our bed. Shoulder to shoulder. Teary eyes. Door closed.
What do we tell our kids? When do we tell them? We want to be strong for them, but can we be honest and admit that even thinking about how they will process that we're most-likely leaving Haiti feels like too much to walk them through since all we can manage to do as grown people is hold each other and cry. It's days before Christmas. Can't we just tell them we unexpectedly get to go home and see family for the holidays and then break the news to them after the holidays?
"I don't see our tears ending any time soon. We need to go home to pray, think, and talk to people way smarter than we are. We have bags to pack. We need to know what the boys want to take home...what belongings they would be crushed to leave behind. We need to ask them what pieces of their life here will help them heal once we're back in Texas. There is no way around this. We have to tell them and trust that Jesus will cover the parts we will most certainly jack up as we begin to move forward."
We gathered everyone in the living room. They all sat close. Skin to skin.
Isn't it strange how children's minds work? When we were newly married Aaron and I sat one evening and tried to remember our very first memories of our childhoods. I loved hearing the stories Aaron told. We allowed each other to walk through some of our earliest memories as children. It was an intimate invitation to revisit pieces of our pasts that formed us long before we were formed into husband and wife. We were surprised that some of our earliest memories revolved around seeing our parents cry. A million scenes of our pasts can no longer be recalled but the ones that involved our parents and their tears seemed to embed themselves, remaining in our minds forever.
We don't put a lot of stock in singular moments defining us in deep, down lasting ways. We don't even put a lot of stock in our supreme ability as parents to completely shape our children. We know how sinful we are, and so looking to God's lavish love for our kids and His sovereignty over their lives is a comfort to us when we think of how often we blow it. We know that ultimately, no matter how hard we try as parents we excel at messing things up, and yet God is gracious and lovingly seems to spare our children from a lot of our stupidity.
Even though we have great faith in those truths, there seemed to be a tangible whisper in our minds that this moment in our living room was an important one, and there would be many important moments waiting for us on the horizon as we deal with this unexpected news and try to move forward.
While we're thankful their entire futures do not depend on one moment in our living room, God did give us enough grace and clarity in that one tiny frame of this story to know that this was an opportunity to teach them about their value to us, to God, and that no matter how unexpected these events were to our family, that we can trust a good God to only give good to His children. When it feels like everything is crumbling, and the Unknowns seem to be doing an obnoxious end-zone dance while the Knowns stand there confused and dazed...somewhere in the middle of the madness, God is up to something good.
"In about 48 hours we're going to get on an airplane and go to Texas. There is a chance we won't be coming back to Haiti."
The boys fell over into our laps. We all held each other and cried.
When it was over, peace seemed to tangibly sit with us. Like a person. In the room. Among other things spoken, in a moment of absolute weakness and maybe even insanity we vowed on our lives to get their giant mastiff to Texas. Everyone was crying. The boys could have asked for a real rocket ship, and I'm sure we would have promised to get one for each of them if it would make them happy. Before we sat down with the boys, we had great hopes of channeling our inner Cliff and Claire Huxtable so we could calmly explain everything and answer all their questions with Cosby-sized wisdom. What we got instead was a living room floor filled with crying freaks as we held our kids and squeaked out truths about God's faithfulness.
Aaron will be returning to Haiti soon to sell our belongings and will hopefully return with quite the traveling companion. In the meantime we've been so thankful for your kind comments, emails, and messages as we take in so many unexpected new things back here in the US. You guys have always been a constant source of grace to us, so I'm not sure why we would have ever expected anything less.