Last night we ate at a restaurant the kids have never been to before, Sparkie’s. We rarely go out to dinner but Scott and I are trying to bolster our kids’ confidence and one simple way that was suggested to us is by allowing them to order their own food when we go out to eat. Plus, I was not in the mood to cook after being away from home most of the day. Scott suggested Sparkie’s because we were all a little burnt out on our usual spots. The kids loved it and were so excited to be somewhere new. They were commenting on the nice booths and Grace even let us know “The bathrooms are really cool!” We might need to get out more…
We were drawing pictures on the backs of the kids’ place mats, waiting for our food when Noah announced, “Someday I will move out and live in an apartment. Probably when I go to college.” I honestly couldn’t reconstruct the details of the conversation that lead to that declaration of independence, but I saw Scott’s head snap in Noah’s direction right along with mine. Noah is nine. How in the world he’s already thinking about such things is beyond me.
Grace weighed in on Noah’s plans with “You can get a puppy and I will come visit you!” as if this was obviously the sort of dinner conversation people have with their elementary-school-aged kids.
“Whoa! Whoa! Pump the breaks!” I looked at Noah who was smiling broadly back at me.
“What?” he asked feigning innocence as he pushed his glasses back on his nose by wrinkling his face to one side. Scott and I looked at each other both thinly suppressing laughter.
Scott said, “Let’s just get you through grade school first.”
“Won’t you miss us?” I asked playing along. I felt a nudge from my left side where Luke had all but melted under the table, his round eyes swimming with tears peeking over the edge.
“Luke what’s the matter?” I asked him. But I already knew. Luke, my sensitive kid, was fast-forwarding to how it would be when they grow up and move away. “Luke, you can stay with Dad and me as long as you want. Is that what’s bothering you?”
He managed a small nod, determined not to let those tears fall past his eyes. “And I’ll miss Noah,” he whispered. And there was the simple truth. Our kids really do love each other. Despite all their bickering and squabbles, they are best friends.
Anyway, it all got me thinking about our kids on a much deeper level. The fact that Noah has these kinds of aspirations shows me that they are becoming themselves, not just our children, but the people who they are intended to be. So often I think of the kids as being “ours.” But they really aren’t, at least not in a sense of ownership. We care for them and make sure we meet their needs as well as providing a framework for living a moral life. But the fact is, they belong to God. We are just taking care of them until they can take care of themselves.
And this is why I am so glad they have each other. I know siblings don’t always stay close, but even if they drift in life, they will at least have Scott and me in common. Their memories will have us in the background and that is something that only they will share.
It amazes me because there was a brief moment after Noah was born when I thought I would not want to have other kids. I was not one of those pregnant women who basked in the glow of pregnancy bliss. I was sick and gray well past the twenty-week mark and even my birth plan had gone awry resulting in an emergency c-section. I remember thinking it was probably a mistake for me to become a mother. I was too selfish, after all. I thought the worst thing I could do was have another.
But Luke had other plans for me, announcing his existence one early-September day when Noah was about ten months old and I was wondering why I felt so tired and nauseous. I am ashamed to say, my initial reaction wasn’t one so much of joy, but more of annoyance. I had just been through this! How could it be happening again? Well, of course I knew how, but I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t God and I sorted this out? I was a mediocre mom at best. I hadn’t quite stopped lamenting my inability to sleep an uninterrupted seven hours of sleep a night or go to concerts on weeknights as I did pre-children. I didn’t live for play-dates and the thought of quitting my job gave me a minor panic attack since we wouldn’t be able to afford daycare for two kids.
But Luke came right on schedule in May of the following year. And even though those early days of having two children are a fog of delirium (I literally hallucinated Batman was coming in through the nursery window one night in June after Luke was born), I know Noah and Luke were best friends from the second they met each other. They even coordinated a plan to help me lose my mind entirely by plotting to have Luke take his first steps the same day I was determined to potty-train Noah. So I chased them around for three days, trying to throw the potty chair under Noah while preventing Luke from getting a concussion on walls and furniture.
And then, I thought having such a tidy, two-child family was far too “normal,” so we threw everything off balance by trying for a third kid and wound up with Grace. In truth, the boys couldn’t have gotten a better little sister. She is down for anything that they throw at her. I still remember her humming the Imperial March song from Star Wars over the baby monitor when the boys were at the height of their Star Wars obsession and she was about two years old.
So last night I looked around our table at my family with a tender heart. This Saturday night was one I never would have pictured ten years ago when Scott and I used to go there as a newly married couple; Noah gushing praise over Sparkie’s exquisite mac n’ cheese recipe, Luke wiping ketchup from his mouth with the back of his hand, and Grace stabbing her bun-less hamburger with a fork while smiling about something Scott had just said. I felt humbled and undeserving of so much good fortune.
I read a theory a while back that we actually choose who we get to spend life with before we come here. We choose each other to learn from, truths about our souls, that sort of thing. It’s as if Earth is one giant classroom. Every person in our lives is a lesson to be learned. And how deeply blessed I am that these souls chose me to be a part of their journey.