Today I sit at my computer, watching my girls take turns pushing each other on the swing under the huge walnut tree in our backyard. Hannah eagerly runs toward Naomi, who is pumping with all her might, with her hands outstretched, ready to help push her big sister. Then, as Naomi's body flies back toward Hannah's skinny frame and I prepare to pick up the phone and call the paramedics, Hannah reconsiders and runs from harm's way as fast as her toothpick legs can carry her. I am relieved, and then amused, but more than those I am proud. Good for Hannah! She was really trying to be kind to her sister, and with all the times I have lost my temper in frustration with my children, somehow, by God's grace, I see their little kind, loving hearts shining through more each day.
This morning I woke up to find that Naomi had already poured out the morning's juice for each of her siblings and set our their multi-vitamin pills for them to take, as I have done first thing each morning for seven years. She carefully climbed the stairs and grinned from ear to ear as she brought my juice glass and prenatal vitamin to me in bed. "Mommy, I poured the juices for everyone already! Here you go!" she announced with pride. And, even though I had trouble opening the refrigerator door because of the enormous juice puddle that had dried and sealed it shut, I was proud of her too. When she went around the house a week ago opening all the mini blinds for me, but pulled so hard on one that she broke the top rail in half, I tried to swallow that $3.96 loss with grace. She was trying to help, and that is exactly what I need.
The girls complete their chores of laundry folding and dishwasher emptying most mornings now without complaint, and sometimes without even needing to be told. The pile of bath towels sits askew from lop-sided folding, and my plastic food storage containers are often sealed together because a pair of little hands forgot to dry them before nesting them together, but I am proud none-the-less.
Today at nap time I filled Toby's sippy-cup with milk and turned him over to Hannah, who gently led her little brother upstairs, tucked him in his toddler-bed, and sang him a lullaby she had made up herself. After he fell fast asleep Naomi and I worked together to make some gf/cf bread. She read the directions and answered my smuggled-in math problems about fractions and multiplication and division of ingredients, and we all felt proud of what we had accomplished.
Yes, they still make bad decisions. Sometimes they are downright selfish, and we did have one ear-splitting fight that ended with a torn game piece this afternoon. But the point is that that isn't all of life anymore. More and more I see patience, I hear kind words, I see selfless sacrifice for others. Entire games of Chutes and Ladders go by peacefully and end with the loser congratulating the winner now. Occasionally they pick up their toys without being asked. After a scream of horror I will often hear the words, "I'm sorry for...Will you forgive me?" without me intervening at all. And in these moments I think to myself, "Wow! I only had to repeat that phrase to them 6, 187 times in order for them to pick it up! It works! They can learn to be civilized!"
I often joke that God gave me three girls first because he knew Toby would need four mothers. Now, after seven years of intensive planting, watering, weeding, and fertilizing these three little sprouts have really begun to blossom, and I am intensely thankful to the One who makes all things grow. As we all sat on my bed this morning and looked at an in-utero photograph of a 24 week-old baby, and imagined how our new baby looks right now, and looked forward to his arrival, I felt much better prepared for this baby than for any of my others. I am older, wiser, more experienced, but more than all that, I am equipped with 3 1/2 live-in helpers that I didn't have before. They can't wait to be of service, and I can't wait to reap the harvest I have so long awaited.