Monday, November 28

Commitment

Alright... another load of laundry done. Another day coming to a close. It's Richard again...  It's been another busy few days, but it turns out that I happened to be the lucky one who found the extra tiny bit of time to put some thoughts down.  While I'd love to read the first chapter in the next book of the series I started this month, there's a hum in my brain that suggests I'd rather chat out loud in case some of you are awake and listening. With all the subjects running around in my head, I hope this flows in some way, or we might have more 'whiplash' that Emily spoke of, though probably a slightly different meaning to the word this time. I'll try and keep from letting the flames in the hearth distract me...they're just so peaceful. (I swear we've mentioned our fireplace more than any other single item in the last month. Sorry!  We just really like the calm that seems to come from sitting in front of the fire.)

Today was ... normal. Sort-of. I'm learning all kinds of new things about parenting. Crash courses have been offered here and there over the last decade or two of my life. But now is obviously different. Actually, now would be a good time to explain that a little:

A few years ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to help a friends' family. Their father had been diagnosed with cancer. For the third time. Yes, I said third. For a few months, I was able to help in a simple sense while attending school. I would take this friend's father, who I'll simply call 'Dad', to treatments when my schedule would permit, and help in other ways. Did I mention he had 9 children? The oldest was older than I am, but the range included many at home, all the way down to a 3-year-old. Anyway, 'other ways' that I helped typically meant cleaning up around the house, helping get younger children to various activities, playing (a lot!), and sometimes making food. I'm sure they liked Mom's cooking a lot better than mine though, as my claim to fame is either hot cocoa or grilled ham and cheese (not usually at the same time :P). My standard weekend became family time, and it was wonderful to have something more meaningful than TV to do on the weekends.

This was the way things went for a time. Things changed though after a few busy months passed. 'Dad' wasn't doing well, and I moved in eventually to help more consistently. For a year I lived and breathed family life in many aspects, and learned a lot. Cancer is hard. But it also means a lot of opportunities for growing.  And the kids all handled things in different ways. It was a very special time for me, and while it only lasted a year before I returned to school, it was one of the more meaningful times of my life.

Anyway, I tell you this to say... that I'm not exactly 'new' to family life. This example of 'Dad's' illness and passing is probably the most 'special', but it's one of many experiences that helped me glimpse inside the walls that people call Home. Now I'm a part of one.


So back to what I said before.  Today was... 'normal'. We were on vacation last week, which meant everyone together, all day, for the whole week. Honest comment here: I consider myself an energetic person. I've always prided myself in my ability to keep up with kids!  But 5?  For a full week? Holy cow! I'm out numbered!

Growing up, we were 3 boys for my first 11 years. My Mother and Father took us camping for a week every summer. Through my college years I really started to grasp how much effort that trip was for my parents, but now?!  I'm downright SCARED of the exhaustion that will hit after we have a fun trip like that!  Self-awareness is an awesome thing, but I need those Platinum Energizer Bunny Batteries. Anyone know where the 'Toys-R-Us' for adults is??  Haha

Back to today though. Kids were up before us. We did breakfast without any major issues. High five to us! The kids wanted to play outside afterward, so everyone searched for socks and coats, and went to play. With the temperatures outside that didn't last long so we went to run a few errands. Four and a half HOURS later, we pulled in the driveway again. Woah. We went for milk! :P  After a brief bit of craziness, Ellie asked to help with dinner. Child of the year award, coming up! We ate, packed up again, and went and watched the local fireworks with some dear friends. There were, of course, sweets included in the visit. I couldn't help but laugh as the 7 of us (mostly the smallest 5 mouths) ate through 70% of the food for the party! (Sorry friends!  The next party will have to be on us!) Bouncing, literally, with sugar, we came home and had a quick wind down before bed.

Which brings us to now.

Now, the part I want to talk about. Today was different. I know I said 'normal', and in most ways it was a normal day for this week. Craziness, baths, laundry, messes, cleaning up messes, food, errands, shopping, phone calls, scolding, praising, fighting, crying, making up. But today was also different. Today was the first time I've heard Lydia say that she missed Martin.


Let me see if I can describe this correctly. Ellie and Sophie frequently express their feelings. While they both do it differently, they both have a good grasp on what they're feeling and when. Johnny is a little harder to read because he doesn't slow down to process as well as his older sisters do. He's kinda like the son from 'The Incredibles' where everything is fast and loud and now!  It's play time until he drops. Or gets hungry. But either way, he's usually very focused on what's next. All the same, he does have moments where he expresses that he misses Daddy, and we (sometimes as a family/with Emily and myself, and sometimes more individually because of the circumstance) get to process that with him too.

Lydia on the other hand is ... well... our little smiling chipmunk. She's a bubble of joy that never bursts. The ray of sunlight that always evades the clouds. The evergreen, the jolly elf, the light on the front porch.

And as I said, today was different. Today while we sat in the car at one stop, Lydia was getting less attention than the others. I can reach two from the front seat when we're parked, and Sophie and Ellie were singing along to the radio and talking to each other in the back. While I tickled the closest 2, through the laughter I heard a sad little voice peep "Daddy?", and I realized Lydia was crying. I assumed that when I asked "Lydia, what's wrong??" that she'd respond with the typical "I'm hungry."  Instead, she said, eyes intently focused on mine, "Daddy, I miss Daddy-Martin."

This was the first time that little Lydia had said anything like this. I have approached the subject several times with each of the kids, but never with Lydia. She talks about Martin when we look at photographs, but in a happy tone. This time was a sad face, with pink cheeks, and even a few tears.

With the older kids, we talk through it. We'll discover what brought the memory on, or how they feel, or if they'd like to do something to help with the feelings their having, like let a balloon go for Daddy.  I'm sure every child is different, and I certainly don't have a doctorate in child psychology, but we talk and process what we can, and with questions, the kids get to describe what they're feeling and how they would like to respond to those feeling.

With Lydia, I felt stuck. For a second anyway.

While I looked back at her, I said the only thing that came to mind: "I'm sorry honey," and paused. She nodded, and I asked, "Can I give you a big hug when we get home?"  She smiled a little and said yes.

What really got to me was the next few seconds...

She told me she would like a hug. This made me smile. When I smiled, she smiled some too. I made a happier face at her, and she gave me her big classic Lydia smile.  If it weren't for the wet cheeks, no one would have been able to tell that, moments before, she had been so sad. I turned to Evie and tickled her neck, and squeezed John's thigh making him squirm with laughter too. Then I looked back to see Lydia crying again. When our eyes met, she gave a big smile again. This time as I looked back to the others, my attention stayed on her, and I watched out of the corner of my eye as her face fell again, and tears started to flow as if she hadn't smiled at all. When my eyes returned to hers with my full attention, it brought another smile, but then her face again fell as I looked away. She seemed in limbo, stuck between happy and sad.

This was a truly humbling moment for me.

I haven't been a parent the way I am now for very long, so many things are new.  My hat is off to parents around the world. You are ALL amazing! Day in and day out, while incredibly rewarding, is hard! And for me, this little moment with Lydia was HARD!  I looked into her eyes, and wanted to fix it. I wanted to reason, like we do with Ellie. I wanted to share emotions, like we do with Soph. I wanted to listen to what Johnny had to say, and wait until HE decided to change the subject.

In that moment, I was a brand new parent. No idea what to do with emotions of this size in a child this young. Maybe there WAS nothing I could do. But I didn't have the answer, and I really wanted to have the answer!  Emily wasn't around to help. MY parents weren't there for me to ask them. I was all on my own, Lydia needed me, and I KNEW there was nothing that I could do that would really help her. I was bumbling through a moment with no possible chance to quote-unquote 'save the day'. I just watched little Lydia's face light up, and fade, and light up, and fade.

Having had a few hours now to think about this, things are ok. Little Lydia returned to her happy place, and is now sound asleep. The house is quiet. Stomachs are full. Life is good. In perspective, I'm surprised that these moments of feeling 'lost' as a parent aren't happening to me every hour!  I'm very blessed to have grown up with good parents who never stopped trying. Blessed to know a land of freedom. Blessed to have very rarely been hungry, or truly cold, or have lost my health beyond a nasty cold. I've been blessed with neighbors and friends and loved ones that have taught me many things. Today, I gained another drop of respect for parents. Vacations are HARD WORK!! Children, while 90% of the time (or sometimes less) are wonderful, are also hard work!  I thought the Spartan race was about being tough, that marathons were about endurance. I'd love to see a Navy Seal be tossed into a home with children for a few days, and see how he fares (NOT that I don't have great respect for the armed forces, just a comedic comparison). Grit and toughness are about diapers, and sleepless nights, and bad dreams, and boo-boos. THIS is what life's about, and this is what really matters.

Tonight I head to bed with admiration for families of all sizes, and the parents who lead them. And I head to bed with goals.
1. I want to be even more patient.
2. I want to play harder.
3. I want more sore muscles.
4. I want more sore backs.
5. I want more clean socks.
6. I want more smiling faces.
7. I want to give more hugs.
8. I want to eat more chocolate chips.
9. I want to do more chores.
10. I want to eat more vegetables.
11. I want to make more memories
12. I want to be a better parent, person, husband, friend.

Tonight, I shoot for better. And while today wasn't perfect, and *I* couldn't stem Lydia's tears completely, tomorrow, I want to make sure she smiles more because she knows what a special family she had, has, and will continue to have.

Goodnight all, and thanks for listening/reading,
- Richard

--------------------------------------------------------------------

45 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. As a new parent myself having just had my first baby, Richard you are doing an amazing job- it is hard! Sending lots of love to you, Emily, and your beautiful family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks friend. Congrats to you too on the new parenting thing. Thanks for all the love :)
      -Richard

      Delete
  2. I know why you were sent to Emily and those sweet precious babes! Tears are streaming down my face for Lydia and for the gratitude that you are in all of their lives! I have no doubt Martin is proud of you. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patti, thank you for your sweet words :) It means a lot

      Delete
  3. Dear Emily, I know we don't know each other (how could we, I'm from Portugal! Ahah) but I want to let you know that I just adore your family. And Richard is such a blessing to you and your little ones, I'm sure! Reading what he has to say makes us (or at least me) understand what a special person he is and how lucky your family is for having him in your life! Richard, to you I want to say "Thank you" for being such a beautiful soul and for being what not many others could be to Emily and the kids in this challenging part of heir life! Really, congratulations for everything you are and do for this amazing family, and your words are always an inspiration and very welcome! Also, your commitment to this family and respect for everything they've been through and to embrace their past and being part of their future, wow, it's breath taking and amazing, truly! Thank you all for sharing your story and puting a smile on my face, as well as helping me to keep having faith in the humanity ability to love and to move forward so gracefully! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear friend, Thank you so much for the compliments and congratulations. Glad to have said something that helps your faith in humanity!
      Much love and hugs to you in Portugal,
      -Richard

      Delete
  4. Richard, your heart is beautiful. Praying for you all in this season of life. Thank you for being there for those adorable children and of course Emily. Your commitment is truly amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alicia, Thank you. All we can do is our best, right? Grateful for your prayers, please keep them coming. They really are a blessing :)
      -Richard

      Delete
  5. I think it's important to keep in mind that all emotions are okay. Talking with Lydia about feeling sad is okay. Letting her know it's okay to feel sad is okay. She doesn't need to put on a smile if she doesn't want to. It seems there has been so much change in her short life; she can be sad AND happy and it's...okay. My best to all of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jessica, I 120% agree! It's important that emotions not be hidden. Like you said, Lydia's sad feelings are not something to run from or cover up. Her smile is important to us, but not at the cost of her genuine little feelings. Emily and I are on the same page there too. It's encouraged that the kids talk about things when emotions come up, and that happens a lot with change. Here's to happy AND sad! *cheers*
      Thanks for your thoughts!
      -Richard

      Delete
  6. Thanks so much for sharing this tidbit into your lives! What a leap of faith you have taken to parenting five children now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abby, I'm glad you feel happy about all this. For the record, they're blessing my life much more than they know! It's a wonderful time for us :)
      -Richard

      Delete
  7. Being a new parent is hard. I've been a step parent since my boys were 9 and 14. Now I have a new baby boy just as the youngest step son turned 18. I dont know what to do with a brand new baby beyond what I read and what my instincts tell me. Usually instincts are right so trust them. I think you handled yourself just fine and there will be plenty of WOAH moments to come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kiante, Parenting is such a blast too, don't you agree? Congrats on your new little family addition. :) I think our natural instincts are a very good tool, and agree with you that most of the time we can trust them.
      Looking forward to the next 'woah' moment
      -Richard

      Delete
  8. Richard, I absolutely love that you are starting to write some posts on the blog. Do not get me wrong Em, I LOVE your posts too, but it is so nice to have your voice here as well. Thank you for coming onto the blog, and sharing what you have, I certainly hope you continue to do so. Can I also just say that this: "Lydia on the other hand is ... well... our little smiling chipmunk. She's a bubble of joy that never bursts. The ray of sunlight that always evades the clouds. The evergreen, the jolly elf, the light on the front porch" may just be the most beautiful way I've ever heard a child described. How absolutely lovely. Man, you guys seriously just make me have all the feels <3 thank you for sharing <3 lots of love sent your way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ashleigh, Thanks for the kind welcome! Emily is obviously more eloquent than I, but I'm glad you liked the post. You're too sweet. Hopefully the 'feels' is what you were hoping for.
      Thanks for the love, and please know we're sending some back at you!
      -Richard

      Delete
  9. This is so sad and beautiful at the same time. Things like this aren't fixed overnight, and it's been really great to hear your (Richard's) perspective on this house and home. You are honest-to-goodness one the most beautiful families I've ever witnessed, and I am praying for each and every one of you to find joy. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth, we're certainly on a long road, but not one that can't be traveled. Thank you for your prayers.
      Hugs,
      -Richard

      Delete
  10. Such a beautiful post!!! I missed your first post so I had to go back and read it ;). You have a wonderful way with words just like Emily. So glad u decide to share. I've got 4 small kids and it's not for the faint of heart. I'm amazed at your wisdom! It's as if you've been a parent for years. I can only imagine how hard the grief must be. Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job loving them and walking through it with them! Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leigh, I'm glad you got to read both posts. My hat's off to you and the 4 chilluns running around at home. It's quite the adventure, and few really get a glimpse of this kind of chaos and love. I think it's a special gift. The grief weighs in for a bit now and again, but that comes with the territory. Thank you for your confidence in me, and I hope to keep learning how to improve.
      Blessings to you too!
      -Richard

      Delete
  11. This post, it has tough feels! My situation wasn't nearly the same as what your family is going through, but my parents divorced when I was a baby. I didn't know my father, but was incredibly lucky to be raised by the best 'DAD', for me. I only had 2 photos of my father growing up and always wondered about him. My DAD never tried to fill his shoes, he never tried to be him, he took on my mom with 4 kids and deserves a huge medal.
    The only advice I can offer from the other side, is to walk your own walk...showing up is 90% of it. While Martin can't be there, my dad chose not to be. She may not remember this specific day further down the road, but she will remember the love, the patience, the understanding, and the love you give her forever. Sending continued love and prayers to all 7 of you as you navigate your new road ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh Richard bless your heart your such a good man to take all 5 kids under your wing and raise them. Your doing wonderful. Just keep be a wonderful person :) I can't wait to hear how you and Emily met!!!!! I keep attaining the blog :) I wish I lived closer I feel like we could do play dates my daughter is 3. I think Emily and I would be really good friends. ❤

    ReplyDelete
  13. Many hugs to you! I cannot even fathom the journey y'all are on right now, but y'all seem to be doing it so gracefully.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Richard, even long timed "battle warn" parents get lost in moments like these. I can only imagine how your heart sunk and not being able to do anything in those few seconds.Your love shines through for you new found family. You are doing a great job and are a great man. God Bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You are already an amazing parent - because you are trying. Trying and doing and wishing and hoping are the best you can give to kids - whether yours biologically, by marriage, by choice, by love. And you are doing a fantastic job. Kids go through so many emotions and stages and life lessons in such short periods of time, and to bear witness, share in them, try to offer comfort and kindness and love, is the best gift you can give those kids. This family is truly blessed, even after such a tragic loss. Prayers for continued patience, love and happiness in your family, and that you reach your goals, which are goals I'd love to attain, myself!

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is a beautiful post and brought me to tears reading it. Emily and the kids are very blessed to have you in their life.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is probably the most beautiful post I've read in a really long time. I'm not anywhere near in relating to your experiences or feelings but I just felt the spirit so strongly the entire time... Prayers with your family. Thank you for sharing such a special experience with us.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's ok and normal and therapeutic for her to feel sad, and my opinion is to let the children feel it as it comes over them. Maybe a hug and allow the crying for those moments. You're doing a beautiful job of letting them know they are loved, they are secure, you are there for them. Also allow them to sit with their grief as you comfort. The smiles will come.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This story brought me to tears. Richard, you've got this! The fact that you took the time to notice what was happening with sweet baby Lydia is a first step. I love hearing these real stories. We all experience pain but we don't all know how to share it. Freckled Fox is my favorite blog to read right now. I don't mean that to put more pressure on you. I just want to encourage you and say to keep doing what you are doing. Your family is the most important thing and we'll be here supporting you and praying for you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This was beautiful. I sat here crying so hard while reading it. My heart has ached for your family over the last 18 months. I have cried many times during your posts, but this time I feel so hopeful for you all. Richard sounds like an incredible person.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I loved this. Tears are streaming down my face, my heart breaks for these kids, but I am still reading on with happiness that she and her brother and sisters were sent a man who stepped in to help them move forward and HONOR their daddy's memory. I'd imagine that's a tough role to fill. I'm happy to get to know you through these posts.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This will be my first time commenting on a post even though I have been following along for some time… so for starters I just want to say Hello. I wanted to tell you that your life story has changed me in ways that I I didn’t even know I needed to fix.

    Emily, the strength you have to get through every day astounds me. I do not know that I would be able to do it, however, I understand that you’re not only getting through the day for yourself but for those five beautiful children. I am so happy for you that you have found Richard, I would like to think that if something were to happen to my Eddie that I would be able to find my own Richard. However, in the nicest way… I also hope I never to.

    On another note, I too struggle from time to time with the heartbreak of helping a child. I do not have one of my own yet, however, I have a nephew who is a child from a home with domestic abuse. Not to him, but to my sister… his beautiful mother (**don’t worry they have left the situation). And although I know our circumstances (and the childrens) are completely different, It’s non-the less heartbreaking having to watch them fight their demons.

    I watch my nephew go from angry, to defeated, to sad and even blaming himself for not being able to help stop terrible situations… and I sometimes wonder how sad it is for his eight year old body to know such pain. As I am sure it is hard for you both to watch the children live their days without Martin. Richard, I will admit that I bawled the second I read about Lydia and her struggle with the in between and your feeling of defeat in helping her. I have seen the struggle and battled it myself and at that moment I felt a kinship with all of you and that sweet little girl.

    I hope I made some sense and did not ramble too much. I look forward to reading along and hearing about all of your journeys.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is such a sweet post and I love how you are embracing your new role! Keep going, you got it!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

    ReplyDelete
  24. I absolutely love, Richard, that you are so willing to share your thoughts with us. I love hearing from you and Emily about...life. One of the reasons I love Emily's writing is that she doesn't hold back from the tough stuff and doesn't view the normal as mundane. I sense that from you too. That being said, this post was the most touching, honest, and perfect thing I've read in a long, long time. Thank you for sharing this moment and your thoughts with us.

    Prayers and love to all of you,
    Lydia

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow, this is beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the moment you had with Lydia. I am enjoying getting to know you through your writing. Bless you all!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Love, love these posts! Love your description of the kiddos. John and an endless amount of energy....Lydia, always happy and smiling (one of my favorite things about her!!!) Ellie and Sophia, sweet sisters talking and laughing together - I've seen that many times...and Evie - so snuggly and adorable. We love you all! We are better people because of your examples.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Richard,
    I already love you, as a mother of 8, I promise you there will so many more moments like this. In the midst of all that, there are the greatest moments that make each hard,exhausting moment so worth it. I have never met Emily but I adore her too.... big hugs you guys are amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you for being there for this gorgeous, beautiful family. I have to cry everytime I read a new blog post (and today is extreme, I'm crying for 45 minutes straight now) because I'm starting to imagine what all of this must be like... And my heart aches only with the thoughts of it. So don't worry about not doing anything right, already being there must be perfect on it's own. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I don't know what to write and have been thinking of it since seeing your post online. But I didn't know what to say and was hoping I did know after thinking of it. But a few days later and I still don't know it ;) So I can only say that I had tears in my eyes reading it. Tears for how beautiful you've written this and tears for the beautiful man you are. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Richard. Thank you for being there and thank you for being you. X

    ReplyDelete
  30. As a parent I know you will get a million "helpful" suggestions, and most of the time it wont apply to your situation or kids, but I just wanted to add my thought. I have had a situation like this where my 3 year old (maybe was 2 then) got really sad, I can't even remember what it was about but we were in the car driving some where and I felt helpless. Then it hit me, pull the car over, get her out and hug her until she felt nothing but my love for her. I don't know if this would help in situations like that but I know that helpless feeling and it is so hard as a parent. Hugs don't fix everything but I KNOW they can totally surround little ones in love and comfort. I think you are truly a blessing to these little kids and they will need so much from you on a daily basis. You got this though!! You WILL find out how to help Lydia and it will be a beautiful moment when you do. These kids are lucky to have you.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wow. I can't put into words what I am feeling. As someone who has lost a parent my heart hurts remember that pain. But the amount of love in these words also makes me unbelievably happy. I want to hug my babies a little but longer tonight when I put them to bed. Thank you for sharing a small piece of your journey with us. It was beautiful and tears were shed. How lucky is your little family that they have you.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Richard! It's been an incredible journey watching this powerful story unfold. You seven are what heaven is made up of. You are building a great little force of goodness. Thanks for sharing, for taking the time to write, for being a really really good man. Keep on...cause we love it and you all!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Richard, I truly admire the man that you are. Thank you for loving this sweet family and being the strong, kind man that they need.

    ReplyDelete