Our lives are now filled with karate classes, PTA meetings, homework, bedtime routines, play dates, screen time negotiations, constant reminders to stop laying your chin on the bowl when you eat your cereal, keeping track of glasses and Spider-man socks and small gloves, reminders to lift the toilet seat and stop wiping your toothpaste face on your sleeve again, hugs, bedtime prayers, reading out loud every night, movie nights snuggled on the couch with blankets and popcorn and a tiny body tucked up into my side, Transformer tooth brushes, all the Legos and Super Heroes that can be packed into a small ranch house, and all of the questions about the world and potential disasters and whether people on TV are alive or dead right now, and what's the difference between acting and just real life, and why are there different states and countries, and what would happen if and and and and....
Xavier can be confounding and lovable and needy and handsome and sweet and challenging and ours, he is so totally ours.
In just nine weeks he's visited 7 states, after having spent his first nine years in just Texas. And he seems to like traveling and seeing new places, at least from the comfort of the car with a fully charged tablet close at hand, and the candy of his choice at the next gas station stop.
He is constantly asking questions. At least when he's awake.
He is growing taller and more solid everyday, and the idea that when we look into his little face it will one day be 17 years old and covered in stubble still seems impossible, and yet it will happen so so soon I can hardly catch my breath. He can live at home and go to college still, right?
He has embraced being a part of our family so quickly. Quicker than we dreamed was possible. He is already Xavier Sands on every homework assignment. He loves being our son, at least until it's time to bring in groceries. Then he loses all interest in being in this family. "Why does this family make me help all the time? Why do I always have to carry stuff?"
Simple things, like attending X's Valentine's school party, are so fun. Introducing ourselves as X's parents, watching his face light up when we walk in the room, leading games for all the kids, helping him address his cards to his friends. We are constantly amazed by how little things make us feel so happy. Mundane is still there, but we're still in that early stage where all of the new parenting things feel fresh and sweet. Except homework, homework sucks and poor Joe gets the brunt of it so far.
Sometimes we are the parents who love him and hug him and tickle him and let him watch his own Netflix and his absolute favorite people, and sometimes we are the most terrible, mean parents in the entire world. Both of these emotions could occur in a five minute time span.
He loved playing with his cousins in Madison this last weekend and wanted to know if they would be his cousins even when he had his own wife and kids. I teared up when I got to say "yes, honey, forever" and explained that even when he got married and had a spouse and kids of his own, they will always be cousins. Always.
This weekend was a wonderful chance for Joe's immediate family to all be together for the first time with X. We all celebrated Joe's 40th birthday, and Xavier was surrounded by his grandparents, uncles and aunt and cousins. We loved hearing X and his cousins laugh and run through the house, or watch him sharing a gummy worm with his little cousin Tierney, without being prompted. Just a gummy worm, but it shows who he is inside.
He was tired on Monday night after a long weekend and five hours in the car. His veneer of good behavior started to slip, and he began to turn into the little wild mongoose that all small children seem to be underneath when they get tired. Of course he started to melt down at the restaurant we stopped at for dinner. Lesson learned. Drive thru only at the end of a trip, unless you want to lose your cool at a dessert buffet when your child burps in your face five times in quick succession and refuses to say excuse me or sorry. Drive thru was invented for this very reason, people. Though the truck drivers seemed very entertained by our argument next to the homemade cherry cobbler.
Watching him play with his cousins' kitten or any animal makes us feel confident he has a sweet, kind, soft heart under the sass. And no, kid, we aren't getting a kitten anytime soon.
This is all easier and harder than we ever imagined. Loving him, easiest thing we've ever done. Not yelling, totally the hardest. He missed the bus this morning because he simply refused to walk out to the stop when I asked him to. Instead he wanted to have a little conversation. He just sat down in his coat and back pack and started asking me a bunch of silly questions. I keep forgetting that I'm learning how to do this parenting thing too, and I keep beating myself up when things don't go well. But this stuff is hard. This parenting. And I need to always give us more lead time when we're going back to school after a long break. He stalls. And I need to build more time in so the stall doesn't leave me yelling and furious, and leave him standing there wide eyed while I yell. Since I don't yell often I think he realized it was a serious issue. He quickly wanted to know how mad my boss was going to be when I was late to work after dropping him off. "Will you be in trouble or trouble trouble?" So hopefully that won't happen again any time soon. Plus lesson learned, build in more time to wait at the school bus stop. Also some mild yelling won't break him, but it does make me feel terrible. I'm pretty sure he'd forgotten after three minutes.
I was beating myself up for yelling at Xavier this morning and was telling one of my best friends, and fellow mom, about the situation and she nailed what some of being a parent has felt like for us so far. "Being a parent is always painted as something super rewarding and fun and wonderful. And it's all of those things. But it's also full of unwilling compromises, disagreements, constant pull and take, gritty work, sighs and tongue biting." I would add tiny wins, lots of serious side eye, and some mild alcohol consumption when needed, For us parents, not for Xavier.
We have zero regrets about adopting Xavier. None. Our lives, and Xavier's, were completely turned upside down just nine weeks ago. Completely. And it's been the very best thing we've every chosen to do. It's amazing how quickly we all are adapting. It's not perfect. Nothing and no one is. But it's starting to feel natural and easier, at least a little bit every week. Somehow we have so little memory of the time before we had him. Oh, we remember the freedom and the weekends to ourselves and we loved those years, but the day to day, it seems like it's always been like this, or at least it was always supposed to be like this.
I miss some of our old freedom and the time we had for each other and ourselves, but I wouldn't trade that for the heart swell I feel when checking on my child while he sleeps, or the way his tight spontaneous hugs seem to force tears to my eyes, or the quiet times reading together when I kiss the top of his head and smell his slightly coconut scented black hair, or the tickle fights or the times when we see his dimple pop out from his wide natural smile. It's not worth the trade. Nothing would be.
I think it's so easy to get swept up in the little stuff, the basic needs of all of our every days, that until I have a quiet moment, like in the car on the drive home from Madison, I forget the momentousness of what we've done. For Xavier, for us, for our families. I forget because it's a huge, important thing we've done bringing this little boy into our family. And it's also the easiest most natural thing, because people become parents every single day. And so have we. In many many ways, we are not different. And in some important ones, we are very different. And I'm trying my best to stop and remind myself that we are doing our best, and so is Xavier, and that's all anyone can expect of us.