When I started this blog in July, I thought that this blog would be about the absence of one child and the welcoming of another; perhaps, finding and defining the tension that emerged between the two extremes of sending my oldest child off to Japan for a year as an exchange student and giving birth to a brand new baby in the same year. I think I envisioned posting interesting reports from Hannah in Japan, as well as posting pictures and updates for her of her new baby brother Josh.
While there certainly has been “tension” in this situation, it has not been the type of tension I would have envisioned. As with most things, life has its own special way. I have not written much about Hannah’s experiences in Japan, at least not as much as I had expected. For one, I realize that these are her experiences, not mine. Indeed, she has her own blog and can relay these experiences far better in the first person. Also, she has had more difficulties and hardships than I would have expected. Yes, while we were schooled on culture shock and homesickness before she left, I did not anticipate the depths she would experience these two phenomenon or how long-lasting they would be. I also could never have imagined the degree of growth she would experience. We have these email discussions that have been very raw at times. Hannah has been stripped of all pretense and has found herself in ways that she never could have possibly done at home. It has surprised me to find, at times, how grown up her thinking has become. These email discussions, as well as her difficulties and struggles have just been too private for me to ever reveal on this blog. Suffice it to say, I am very proud of her and what she continues to do. I don’t think that either of us can really even envision yet what the rest of the year in Japan will bring.
I also thought that I would spend this blog dealing with my own grief in having Hannah apart from us this year. I soon realized how wrong that would be. Given that Hannah may look at this site from time to time, I will not engage in this pattern of writing. In fact, I do not often allow myself to engage in this manner of thinking. Chris and I decided that we would down play the holidays this year–as much for Hannah’s sake, as for our own. We don’t want to allow ourselves what Hannah is missing out on, and we don’t need the stress of the holidays this year either. Besides, Josh is too little to care. Ethan is also in agreement. He doesn’t like receiving gifts anyway–just money. He is a saver. We are not going to buy presents this year for one another or fill stockings. Because of the fluid that still may be in Josh’s ears, we have decided that it is best to put off our trip to Texas until later in the spring (or late winter). These decisions feel right and have eased some of the pressure on us.
Although Hannah has had to work through many difficulties in Japan, I believe that the growth and inner resilience that she is gaining will prove extremely valuable in her future. Difficulties are not always just difficult. Difficulties are also opportunities. And so it is with Josh. His hearing issues might resolve and they might not. If not, he will be taught by us to value and work with his disability. We can already see a strong, focused, intelligent little boy in his baby self. He will have the support of two very loving parents, some very loving older siblings and a wonderful, full, strong supportive net of extended family and friends. He is a very blessed little boy. This difficulty too will come with opportunity.
I rarely speak of the middle child on this blog. Fourteen year old Ethan is alive and well in this house. He just completed his first trimester of high school. He has an extremely full schedule with gymnastics, now a level 10 gymnast. I think he is fortunate to have discovered something he is so passionate about so early in life. He has never in his life once dreaded a practice, even when he goes with big open rips in his hands, sometimes layers deep. He loves gymnastics that much. Ethan is a very private person and would not look kindly on me discussing him much on this blog (he doesn’t even like to be photographed). Not long ago, I had a dream that I made Ethan small enough to fit into a test tube, with an interior much like the padded surroundings in “I Dream of Jennie.” I then left him in the car so that I could run errands. I finally ended up in The Walker (Art Institute). I realized that Ethan should be with me, given his love of the visual arts. I called him on the cell phone and asked him to make himself full-sized again, saying that I would come get him in the parking lot. I exited the art museum to find it was dusk outside. I walked and walked but couldn’t find the parking lot where I left Ethan. I no longer had my cell phone and couldn’t call him to tell him I had been delayed. It was very dark and I began to panic. I ran into Ethan’s gymnastics coaches at this time. They too tried to help me find him. I finally realized it was a bad dream and forced myself to wake up. In the dark, I stayed awake thinking about the dream. I realized that I didn’t want Ethan to be the lost child, in between the baby who has issues and the sister who has issues–but that is sort of what has happened this year.
I thank God for Chris, who has picks up where I leave off. He parents Ethan so wonderfully–he has known exactly how not to push, but to just be available and to allow Ethan to come to him. He and Ethan now have deep conversations on the way home from gymnastics. At last, Ethan has someone to discuss his fascination with astronomy and physics; he has someone to watch action movies with; and he has someone who likes to eat red meat as much as he does. Ethan asks for very little, and so when he does ask, I try to give it–if at all possible. I love how he has always looked to his own inner self as guide, rather than relying on the views of others. Somehow, he has shown himself to be a resilient child.