The elementary school gym floor was full of children grades 2 through Kindergarten, and in the bleachers sat their family members. We came in and took our place among them, quickly locating our son who was sitting cross legged with his classmates, twiddling with the cord of his noise cancelling headphones. A minute later he spotted us and broke out into a grin. We waved and gave him a big thumbs-up.
The awards ceremony continued on from second grade to first, and finally down to the kindergarten classes. When M’s teacher made her way to the microphone I straightened up, camera ready. She started with the attendance awards (one that we had no hope of receiving this year due to medication changes, doctor appointments, and an unfortunate case of the stomach flu) and then moved on to the academic awards. And then she called his name…
“For excellence in reading!”
We erupted into cheers – clapping, and whooping. Some of the families around us chuckled and grinned. Then my husband shouted, “Yea M!!!” so loudly that I jumped a bit in my seat before laughing and a few of the teachers on the gym floor turned around to see who was making all that racket. His teacher laughed, his speech therapist pumped her fist in the air.
Yes, we are that family at the school assemblies.
We’re the ones showing up 30 minutes early to get a good seat at the preschool Christmas concert. And when the kids come out to the risers, if we find we can’t see our daughter we move seats so we can. Mid song. We’re the ones who whoop and holler when our son gets an award for effort or reading. We grin like fools at the end of the year program and I cry at the faux graduation ceremonies. We’re the ones other families either love or hate.
I think sometimes families like ours are misunderstood, so I thought I’d share some insider information as to why we’re one of those families. There are two reasons…
First, we almost missed out on all of it. We tried to have a baby for years. We struggled and cried and hoped and prayed and we lost a lot. We had two miscarriages. Two lives that never got to be lived out here. Two little people who never got to go to Preschool or have a Kindergarten graduation or sing “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee” on the risers. In church, I watched from the back pew as the children sang their VBS songs and shared what they learned in Sunday School. I held back tears as I wondered if I would ever have a person up there smiling and waving back at me… making me laugh as they mix up the words or forget the motions.
After all those years of infertility and loss we finally made our way down the path of adoption. And suddenly those little moments were given back to us, two little lives were joined with ours and we were given another chance at the “little” things. But the thing is – they aren’t little to us anymore and we don’t take them for granted. Because we almost missed out on all of it.
Second, my kids have overcome so much to be here. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that both of my children had an extremely rough start to life. That they are both alive is a miracle, truly. That they have made it as far as they have is a testament to their strength, resilience, and the grace of God. They have worked so hard for every single accomplishment. Kindergarten wasn’t easy for my son, but he stuck with it day after day after day. Reading was a particular challenge for him, and he wanted to quit but he didn’t. We just can’t take it for granted because they are fighters and they almost missed out on all of it, too.
Behind our cheers and tears and over-exuberance is something you might not have expected… it’s years of tears and heartache and struggle and suffering. It’s days spent comforting and encouraging and hoping. It’s nights spent wiping away tears and calming fears – sometimes from their bedroom floors and sometimes from the chair next to a hospital bed. It’s waking up each morning a little tired from the day before but preparing to meet the challenges ahead. There’s a whole lot of hard hiding behind the whoops and hollers of elementary school assemblies. We struggle hard so we celebrate harder.
But don’t worry – we’re cheering for your kids, too! We’re whispering to ourselves about the little girl in the ringlets and tu-tu, “Oh look at that cutie!” We’re genuinely excited for the first grader who got an extra special award and we know his parents are beaming somewhere in the bleachers. We try to be considerate of others and limit our metaphorical cowbell to when our child’s name is called so we don’t drown out the next kid’s name. We snap pictures of our friend’s kids from our good seats and make sure they get copies. We’re proud and happy for you, too.
We’re just elated that we get to share the bleachers with you, because for a long time we didn’t think there’d ever be a spot for us.