Over the last few months, I’ve written three posts that chronicle how we have been coping with all the unwanted changes in our life brought on by the war in Ukraine. While these months have been difficult, the overall tone of my writing is positive. In fact, my husband thinks that the second of those three posts is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever written. But today I want to start to tell the other side of the story. Yes, I firmly believe we are going to make it, and I know we have a future and a hope, but that doesn’t mean the here and now isn’t agonizing.
I have always suspected that children are far more resilient than most adults give them credit for. My experience of navigating early tragedy supported this theory (my mom died when I was 5), and now I’ve had a chance to observe my own children coping with loss and grave difficulty.
Our life was a beautiful dream. Every time I walked the streets around the converted old mansion that housed our apartment in downtown Kyiv, I found myself thanking God that we got to live in this charming district, filled with historic buildings and dotted with trendy cafes, interesting restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We had a close-knit church family who all lived within walking distance and a wider community of friends who were in and out of our home on a regular basis. To top it all off, our new landlords had told us that we could stay in their apartment for at least 5 years, and we planned to do precisely that. We had moved 14 times since getting married 18 years earlier, and now, we were finally settled. I couldn’t have been more pleased or content.
Someone recently asked me why I’d stopped writing. In light of what has been happening in Ukraine, the country that I’ve called home for almost two decades, I had trouble comprehending why an explanation was even necessary. But since I didn’t want to embarrass my friend by stating what felt painfully obvious to me (“…my life turned completely upside down on February 24, 2022, and I’m still trying to figure out which way is up…”), I just said (truthfully) that I’d been really busy.
Relationships give life meaning. The relationships we build with our children can enrich us in ways that no other relationships do. I am experiencing this on several different levels with my preschool-through-teenage children. And while I don’t have any grown children, I’ve witnessed first-hand just how rich the parent-child relationship can be after the child grows into adulthood. In my opinion, one of the most fulfilling aspects of parenting is getting to know your children.
Back when our eldest was our only child, I didn’t realize just how early a child’s personality begins to manifest. Because I didn’t expect to be able to get to know my baby’s personality until he could at least speak, I don’t think I paid too much attention to behaviors that could have given me a clue that Samuel was a methodical, logical, and analytical person. I just accepted all his behaviors as normal for a child of his age—that is, until his little brother came along when Samuel was 22 months old. That’s when I realized that even babies have personality traits.
We had a very encouraging sign on Andrew’s second day in the NICU, which was his fourth day on intravenous antibiotics. On that day, he finally opened his eyes! Seeing his sweet brown eyes for the very first time moved me almost to tears. He was eight days old.
My kids are growing up! My husband and I have actually reached the stage of starting to help our older children develop marketable skills and try to figure out what they want to do in life. These days, I find myself contemplating the nature and goals of parenting more than ever before.
Not long ago I witnessed this heart-warming scene:
My almost-2-year-old was standing in the kitchen holding his almost-4-year-old brother’s water bottle. Big brother went up to little brother and roughly snatched his water bottle away. Little brother responded by hitting big brother.
This post first appeared on this blog in November 2014, but I had to delete the original because, during my five-and-a-half-year blogging hiatus, it became the target of literally tens of thousands of spam comments! I now have six kids, from 13 years down to 23 months, but everything I wrote here about my attitude and approach to parenting still holds true!
Parenting is a humbling process. I say “process,” not “job,” because while the end goal of this adventure is a constant, the day-to-day details change over time. My biggest dream for my children is that they would grow up to love and follow Jesus. Period. But how to encourage them in that direction looks very different as they age from 7 days, to 7 months, to 7 years. And the frequent changes and mistakes I make as I adapt to my maturing children remind me how much I still have to learn about this parenting gig.
This post first appeared on Assist News Service in September 2017.
I used to write a column here about my experiences as an American missionary raising children in Ukraine, but it’s been over a year since my last piece. During that time, we went on furlough, had another baby, returned to Ukraine, and moved to a different house. A string of unexpected circumstances made this an often overwhelming season, and I needed to take a break from writing this column.
The first surprise was my husband injuring his knee shortly before our trip to the States. It was still giving him so much trouble when we flew that he had to use crutches. We must have looked like a hopeless menagerie after we checked in and headed towards security: a man on a beat-up pair of borrowed crutches that were missing their rubber feet and had a tendency to slip on the smooth airport floors, a woman who was eight-months pregnant, and four children ranging in age from 3 to 9! Plus a carseat, backpacks, and several rolling carryons. It really seemed like the wrong timing for this injury, but it turned out that the timing was just right.