2018 is almost gone. And at the end of each year, I wish I could say I only looked back to all the sweet memories — but usually I just freak out. I mean, HOW did the year go by so quickly? The time is just screaming by giving me emotional whiplash.
Auggie adds an odd element to the passing time. Each day, a day further away from a world where Auggie’s spirit occupied his breathing body. 2018 was our first full year without Auggie. For me, 2018 was ushered in with hate and a lot of cursing. 2017 held Auggie, so I clung to 2017 until I couldn’t. And I despaired and wept December 31st as the last day of the last year Auggie would ever live in our family. It is irrational, but rational processes suffocate under the tidal wave of grief.
This year we turned into a family with six teenagers. Six. With attitudes and personalities and diagnoses we combat daily. But along with all of that, I see new breaths of independence and mushrooming confidence to face the world. And I love that part.
My older humans are now: 19, 18, 16, 16, 13, and 12. I have one on his own. One almost on her own. Two graduating next year. One starting high school. And one turning into a teenager.
My teenies are 8, 6, and 16. Asher is in a full-time ABA program. Adam is in first grade and could possibly be the naughtiest first grader in the history of the universe. Atticus is in no grade right now, as no one is quite sure what to do with him yet. Being high school age, but preschool size and functionality creates a bizarre challenge to find an appropriate classroom.
2018 the rough stuff.
2018 brought about some tough decisions for us. One of our kids did his second inpatient program. Trauma is no joke and trying to raise humans post-abuse can mean involving therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists. It is a humbling experience for all of us. Knowing we want to make the pain disappear, all the while knowing we can’t do it solo, if at all. As the mom, the reality of this cuts deep.
Within these difficulties, I want my children to know there is no failure in saying HELP. We seem to live in a self-sufficient-driven world and sometimes that can be positive but, in some ways, it feeds the idea that we can and should do this life alone. Foster care life can fuel this fire, where alone feels like the only way to survive.
There is no expiration date on the effects of trauma. It is an unending battle, it is an enemy to which we will never willingly surrender. It is a constant lesson in perseverance and balance, and I unwittingly teeter sideways often. In these times I must pause, straighten, rebalance – and keep going because quitting is never the option.
I don’t share these experiences to scare anyone but to give the full view. Because life will not always be easy choices and clearly outlined paths. I want my kids to know that they are not alone, even if it feels that way at times. And that requesting mental health interventions or sincerely asking for help is never a query that should bring shame. We all only have one mind and one life, and we should look after these as precious gifts, worthy of time, effort and extra care.
2018 the lighthearted stuff.
The teenagers keep me on my toes with their quick wit and sniping comments. I have adopted singing songs in a loud, out-of-tune manner for eyerolls and rudeness. This method of correction works exceptionally well in public as none of the teenagers want to be the kid with the mom that sings YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS! at the top of her lungs in Walmart. The older Irons humans like to tell me that I am embarrassing myself. But at this point, I have survived public poopings, public meltdowns and repeated public nudity from my children, so being the singing, obnoxious parent while out-and-about hurts me literally not-at-all. Sorry, kids.
Asher is naked slightly less than he used to be.
Adam is naughtier than he used to be.
Atticus is just a lovely little human that is rarely cross but often bossy. His unique personality is growing right along with his belly. His spindly legs are expanding in girth, but not length as he is still not taller but is considerably wider than he was in September. At 16 he really may not get taller, time will tell.
And I am hanging out in the middle of all the chaos, learning new lessons alongside my humans. I am attempting to not boss the big ones around as much, as real life is proving to be a better teacher than I could ever be.
I am still involved in advocacy. Still poking the beast that is social services. And still wishing for real-world solutions to the injustice that surrounds us. I remain hopeful but can grow weary of the illogical arguments for sustaining a system that was put in place to protect the young and vulnerable but doesn’t. The fact that we systematically, knowingly cast aside wounded humanity, choosing to remain in sweet and safe bubbles, never knowing the pure joy to be found outside our created comfort is confusing in my brain.
It is not easy. It will never be easy.
But either humans are worth the risk or they aren’t. And right now, according to the statistics, they aren’t. I don’t want anyone to be guilted into fostering, adopting or anything else, that will never work. But I would love to talk about how we treat the marginalized and oppressed. Or discuss the hate that we periodically unload on one another in the name of Jesus. It seems to me that solutions reside in purposeful and civil disagreements of people who, many times, want to reach the same destination-but have opposing paths to get there. Is that wrong?
Looking ahead, I pray for new fantastic adventures and less poop outside of a toilet. I pray for the humans to live a life beyond what is comfortable and safe in a world where kindness is valued above rightness. Where we all gather our collective voices to speak for those that cannot. And the beautifully broken parts of our humanity bind us together instead of separate.
Justice grows here.
Love is welcomed here.
It sounds nice, right?
Happy New Year, friends.