The Truth

He hands me the piece of cookie he’s broken off. Branch heard my mom say she didn’t branch spring 2019bring me one. Just enough for the four children who can eat chocolate chip cookies. Moved by compassion, he shares with me.

It’s a moment that passes in the sea of commotion that is dinner.

When he came to me at 2 1/2, nothing predicted or even hinted at this outcome.

Branch was deeply insecure, especially regarding food. The first time I pushed for him to share was at Boston Pizza 18mths ago. The 3yr old let out a blood curdling scream and threw the small plate he’d been given on the floor. It shattered. That pushed Branch into absolute hysteria. I paid the bill and struggled to get him back into the stroller. We still needed to gather our clothing from the laundry mat around the corner. He continued to cry, scream, and kick.

At home, he recounted the story of breaking a plate and not being able to eat his chicken. It was the first time Branch was able to articulate past events. His sisters were astonished by the fact a plate broke. I was wowed by his ability to explain what happened. That event revealed to Branch the power of language and the impact of his own actions. It was a turning point.

Days haven’t been continually blissful since then. Branch remains incredibly strong willed. Often emotions overwhelm him. Sometimes it’s really loud and messy.

Then there are these moments when he reaches across the table and hands me a piece of cookie. It assures me, his heart has expanded enough that there’s room to share. No longer is he controlled by perceived scarcity. He has enough to give. He wants to give. He finds joy in that connection.

It’s something we were all created to experience – the ability to give and receive.

I watch my 9mth old do it so effortlessly. She smiles at fellow passengers on the ferry. She offers them her joy. They return a smile and slew of kind words. They share this moment of giving and receiving.

When Athena arrived at 20mths, she couldn’t participate in those moments. The attempts strangers made to reach out, sent her into a panic. She’d scream, “No! No! No!” to the elderly women in the grocery store. She had no joy to give. She was afraid to receive what was offered. Eventually, that shifted but she remained incredibly shy and withdrawn. I figured it was who she was.

Then it wasn’t. When we moved to Wolfe Island, the then 7yr old Athena blossomed into a very outgoing child who loves to laugh. Last December she came home so excited after the school Christmas lunch. Athena sat at the table with all the school bus drivers. She was the only child and perhaps not supposed to be there. But she had a fabulous time. Her boldness surprised me – this girl who used to shy away from all adults, even those she knew well.

Who I thought she was, isn’t who she is now.

So often the layers of trauma, negative experiences and emotions bury who we really are – who we were created to be.

There are times when those layers begin to fall away and the truth is revealed. The truth of who we were created to be.

This Moment

As a single mom of five kids with a variety of needs, most of my time is spent putting out fires so I can get things done. Those monotonous things like laundry, dishes, school lunches, and what not. Seems like someone always needs something which makes accomplishing anything almost impossible.

Last night was no exception. I bought a ton of plants for the garden I’m attempting. It looked like rain, so I really wanted to get them planted.

Solving the problem of what to do with the attention seeking 11yr old, I left her inside to do dishes and sweep the floor.

On the deck, the 9mth old baby was put in her new Jolly Jumper. 9yr old Athena was skipping on the driveway. With pencil and paper, 5yr old Adley pretended to write notes about his observations of the garage. 4yr old Branch rode his tricycle.

Knowing it wouldn’t be long before someone needed something, I frantically began planting.

It started to mist slightly. Branch needed his raincoat. Adley suddenly realized he needed a coat as well. Baby was fussing since no one was within arm’s reach. She hates to be alone. Branch was worried she’d get wet under the canopy. He worried he’d get wet. A lengthy conversation ensued that we’ve had countless times.

“The water won’t hurt you.”

“It does hurt!!!!”

11yr old Raine stepped out to ask if she in fact had to wash all the supper dishes or if some were exempt. I kept on planting – not with the leisure or enjoyment I’ve known in other phases of my life. I kept on because there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Suddenly the mist turned into a torrential downpour. I prepare to abandon my task. Thunder and lighting silence all the children. Raine, having completed her chores joins the baby on the deck.

The eco friendly pots my herbs are in begin disintegrating in the deluge. Still, I resign myself to the fact that we must go in. If Branch couldn’t cope with a sprinkle, I suspect it won’t be long before he’s hysterical over this.

Only he isn’t. “The water doesn’t hurt me!!” he realizes, tossing off this raincoat and running down the driveway with Athena. She’s laughing. He joins in. Adley and Raine come trailing after them. The baby, dry under the canopy, lets out a squeal of delight. The lightning flashes. The thunder rolls. The rain pours down. I plant the herbs. The baby jumps. Together the children run and laugh. It’s a perfectly unexpected moment of collective joy.

There aren’t many of these. I breath it in. For an unprecedented 10mins, no one needs me. My imagination takes flight, thinking of what this work in progress will become – my garden, my family.

When I’ve done all I must, we head inside.

The rain stops. A rainbow graces the bright blue sky. It was a beautiful, picture perfect moment in a life that isn’t always so.

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Athena Turns 9

Today Athena turned 9.

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Every birthday reminds me of the first one I spent with her. Three months after she came to me, Athena turned 2. She was tiny and timid. All the balloons and streamers at that first celebration made her smile and laugh.

I had no idea I’d be with her in years to come. At that point, each day contained a measure of uncertainty. Neither of us knew what the future held. I did all I could to make that one day memorable.

Since then, birthdays have become more subdued. Now that I know she’s here forever, there isn’t the same urgency.

This year, away from the bakeries and friends we relied on for spectacular cakes, I did my best to deliver. Thankfully, Athena was sufficiently impressed.

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While being 8, Athena has blossomed in confidence. She loves writing stories about the animals encountered on the island. She loves to dance and do flips on the monkey bars. She loves to help out around the house – making school lunches with me each night.

She’s kind and considerate. Athena loves to make us laugh. She’s intelligent and creative. She’s absolutely amazing.

In every way, Athena continues to grow in grace and stature. So excited to see what’s in store for my girl this year!