This is going to be the letter where I write to you about other people, and about how many wonderful people we have in our lives, and about how good you are getting at loving them.
It’s on my mind, since today was quite literally a revolving door of friends. At 10, while you were at preschool, eight moms gathered with over a dozen kids, mostly under the age of 4, for a brunch here to kick off a year of community. I brought you home from preschool as the first of them was leaving, and before many more had gone Tabitha had come in the front door on her way back from campus. She ate leftovers and swept my floor and held Joshua and we co-existed for a couple hours. Before she left, Nicole arrived, bringing Daddy with her from the class they’d just finished. And, as she was leaving, another friend came with her three precious children, all older than you, all internationally adopted with unique needs and a mommy who is doing an incredibly grace-filled, peace-filled, love-filled job of nurturing them. They were excited to play with you little people, and so above the din of shrieking laughter and clattering marbles we talked awhile and our kids filled each other up. They left at 5:00 in time for me to microwave some leftovers for dinner.
Today was out of the ordinary, but not by much. Having settled into our new routine with Daddy back in school after a year off, and having finished most of the work on our house and the process of adjusting to life with Joshua, we are finally living the way we love again. It can best be summed up by pointing you to two wise men and their wise ideas. The first, Aristotle. His thought shaped me back in high school when I fell in love with his idea in the Nicomachean Ethics that the purpose of having things is to enjoy them amongst friends. Put succinctly, “My life for yours.” The second, James K. A. Smith, modern philosopher, whose essay entitled “Marriage for the Common Good” made concrete our inclinations and expressed our hearts so well when we read it last summer. Rather than saying worse what these two prodigious minds have said best, I will leave this paragraph to stand as a bookmark. Read these.
Then there are the times when it’s time to close our doors and turn in on ourselves, and those times are growing sweeter and sweeter, too. For one thing, we are having them. It’s not that we’ve lacked solitude: but over the last year the solitude has been a necessity borne of stress. We’ve literally had no time for social life since last winter when we bought this house and I was sick-pregnant. “Hanging out with friends” meant inviting them to come help us demo a wall with a bit of wine and cheese on the floor in the next room. Now the dust has settled and we have actual friends coming over for nothing more than food and fun.
But as I was saying, solitude is something we’re finding sweet these days as we craft and practice new rhythms of loving each other. It’s not just that we’re alone together in the hustle of endless responsibilities, it’s that we’re choosing solitude so that we can notice each other and learn how to love each other. Two recent Sundays we’ve spent well, once taking the temporarily-adopted dog with us to the local ice cream hut and sitting on a bench along the town’s main street eating ice cream and hot dogs; the week before we spent three hours playing together at the children’s science museum before walking back down the trail to our car, which was parked at the grocery store, where we picked up frozen pizza and pre-made cookie dough and came home for a movie night. Tuesday nights we’re devoting to you guys, too, which this week meant playing beanbag toss, reading library books, and just being.
It’s a whole new world we’re discovering, a world in which you are more than just our responsibility; you are our people. We’re enjoying your company. You’re growing up enough that I can say “It’s quiet time” and trust you to sit inches from me playing Legos and leaving me alone. I get my Mom-off-duty time AND we get to hang out with each other, all at the same time. As it turns out, I like hanging out with you. You’re a cool guy. You do cool stuff, you’re smart and kind, and you have cool things to say. I like you.
Seeing you learning how to relate to friends is exciting for me because it’s something I know doesn’t come naturally for you. You are an introvert to the point of manifesting a lot of traits on the autism spectrum, and it has always been exhausting to be your mommy with people around. Almost as exhausting, by the looks of you, as it is to be YOU with people around. So I’m glad you’ll be in preschool on the days when my mom-friends and I hang out. This preschool thing is just all-around working for us. And I’m sure it is a big factor in how you are learning to love other people and treat them with dignity and respect. But even though I’m glad to be loving you by sheltering you from these extrovert-fests, I am excited to see you learning how to be with people.
I see it in how you’re beginning to engage Joshua and take delight in him and seek his company and even take responsibility for his well-being in little ways. The relationship just beginning to unfold there is beautiful. But I see it most in how you’re coming to treat Meredith. Not only are you being less selfish toward her and spending less time in self-preservation mode, but you are actually going out of your way to give yourself for her sake. You offer to help her down from the high barstools. You help her with things she’s playing with. You guys did a whole puzzle together yesterday as a team and I didn’t even know until you proudly invited me to see. Best, you have this built-in sense of generosity, almost like you feel it as justice: Instead of hoarding, you think the obvious thing to do with a package of Skittles or a chance to give the dog her treats is to divvy things up with Meredith so she can share in the joy. Don’t ever stop doing this. I am so, so, so, so proud of you for this. Aristotle is too.
Then there’s the hilarious matter of the things we DON’T share with friends and how definitely you articulated this concept the other day. You’re completely used to the sight of me breastfeeding Joshua and it doesn’t phase you one bit. I love that you are learning this part of human life. In fact, the other day you were sitting with me while I was feeding him and suddenly you grinned and articulated your engineer’s mind. “Joshua is so cute when he’s connected to The Boob!” you remarked with delight. This completely caught me off-guard and I was laughing about it the whole day. For one thing, there was no acknowledgement that it was, to be specific, MY Boob. Nope, it is just The Boob. Like The Fridge or The Kitchen or The Other Communal Food Sources that we all depend on. And funnier still was that word “connected.” You use it in a million strange ways, and all of them evidence your engineer brain. You completely crack me up.
Fast forward a few days and we were sitting around the dinner table with one of our dear friends who’d come from out of town for a visit. You’d just returned from preschool and she was engaging you in conversation. Talking to Joshua, I made some silly remark about how he was The Boob Drinker, or something like that. You thought this was hilarious, and Claire asked you if perhaps you were going to tell this joke to your friends at school. Without an instant of hesitation you responded “No, because you don’t talk about nakey stuff with friends.” So apparently you DO listen to me sometimes.
I think you’re going to do just fine.
I’m just so proud of you these days, how quickly you’re growing in abilities and in wisdom. How well you articulate your ideas and how eagerly you ask questions. How the nursery leader came to me after church on Sunday to tell me that while you were there (you join them during the sermon for the preschool Bible lesson) you were a huge helper with the younger kids. How you are beginning to take ownership of your responsibilities, quietly coming upstairs in the middle of quiet time to go potty with no prompting, just a sweet returned smile when you I grin my approval at you as you head back down the stairs.
You are a pretty great kid. I have this awesome suspicion that I’ve barely even scratched the surface of how much I’m going to enjoy you in the next ten or twenty (or fifty) years. You’re awesome.
I love you.