To the baby of the family,
Lieutenant Happy Face (more of a reminder to cease complaining than an actual title),
Ketchup or Enchilada (codenames for when we’re talking about him in front of him because spelling his name sounds too much like his name):
You leave no soccer ball unkicked and no question unasked and no burger uneaten.
You have taught us things about ourselves and the heart’s ability to love.
You make us smile when you ruffle the hair of your teammates and pat their backs to console them after a missed kick.
You make us laugh when you put on your “rocky roll” shows in the basement, complete with dance moves not seen since the days of Solid Gold.
You make us proud to be your family.
Someone asked me recently if I am at the point in my parenting of Ezra that I truly love him as much or in the same way I love my older three. I answered something generic—I don’t really remember what—but I gave this some thought later. I decided it’s not just about love. Love implies self-sacrifice and devotion and meeting basic physical needs. My maternal instincts create this kind of love for children. It pours out of me pretty easily, like water running downstream. I love most all kids, so yes, I love (read: adore) Ezra. We help him shower and brush his teeth. We pack his lunch for school and quiz him with sight word flash cards. But wholly parenting a child who didn’t come from me is more about connection than love. I loved him before I met him, all those years he grew up without us, a world away.
But now we have found connection.
When he leans into me when I read him a bedtime book.
When he trusts me when I offer an explanation to something confusing.
When he believes me when I say everything will be okay each time I take him to the doctor’s office to get a shot.
On the second anniversary of his homecoming, we marvel at all he’s learned and how he’s changed. How every time he saw an animal on TV or in person (even a squirrel), his first questions used to be: “Me touchy him? Him eaty me?” We selfishly mourn the loss of Ezra-isms like “inja” for ninja and “crocogators” for crocodiles (or alligators?) and “package” for practice and him making kissing noises to simulate a referee whistle. But we know this is a natural and positive alteration. He needs to grow and change.
At this point, it just feels like he fits in our family. Looking back on our original decision to adopt, I don’t know what we expected. All I know is that God asked us to make room in our family for another kid. There have been growing pains and stretch marks as we created space for this one, but God always provided the elasticity required. Now Ezra is tethered to us in a way that can never be severed. I’m sure there are times when he’s wished for a different family—one with a mom who would let him drink Coke for supper and stay up late on school nights—but he’s stuck with us, stuck because love means commitment but also because we’re forever connected.