I always wanted to build a house. Well not ME, literally with hammer in hand, so to speak (unless they make little cordless electric ones in lime green with tiny turquoise finishing nails). . . but I digress. I wanted to design my own house, and then have it built exactly as I wanted. And I spent countless hours - which in hindsight could have been spent in so many more productive ways - drawing house plans. Somewhere between 1997 and 2003, I achieved, what I believe to be, the perfect house. Not too big, not too small, great for large groups but still cozy, a good flow, no wasted space, designed for four but accommodating for 24 . . . it was just right. That was the appeal to building . . . getting exactly what I wanted. Someplace where people would walk in and say, "Yeah, this looks like Steph". Sure, I might find, after awhile, that is wasn't exactly PERFECT, but at least the imperfections would be mine. Nobody else's mistakes. Nobody else's dirt. Nobody else's history.
I have realized, over the last couple of years, that my approach to parenting has been the same. I wanted to design my own children. A girl. A boy. Good spacing between them. I wanted them to be "just right" - healthy, happy, beautiful, intelligent, funny, interested in the things important to me . . . people would look at these children and say, "Yeah, they are definitely Steph's kids". Somewhere between 1986 and 2011, I achieved, what I believe to be, amazing children. And parenting them has been the greatest joy of my life. No, they aren't exactly PERFECT, but at least I know the imperfections are mine. Nobody else's mistakes. Nobody else's dirt. Nobody else's history. (Sorry to disappoint you, son, you are NOT adopted.)
Some time back, my sweetest friends found that biology was not going to allow them to "design and build" their own family. I know this happens to many couples, but to know THIS couple, you would understand this to be nothing short of tragic. They were MADE to be parents. The perfect blend of responsible and silly, disciplined and fun, loving and lovable . . . if PARENTING had a poster, these two would be on it. My heart broke for them. For months, I prayed for God to change their circumstances. WHY would He allow children who are unwanted to come into this world by the thousands, and yet prevent one child who is SO wanted from coming into this family? Made no sense to me. Then again, God often makes no sense to me.
One day, in talking about their options, they used the 'A' word: adoption. I felt a rush of disappointment. Not IN them, mind you, just FOR them. Adoption can come with such problems, such issues, such . . . heartache. When you adopt a child you have to deal with somebody else's mistakes. Somebody else's dirt. Somebody else's history. And I didn't want this for them. I wanted them to have children we could look at and say, "Yeah, they are Darling children". I wanted THEIR lives to as perfect as they could be.
But somewhere between "Steph, we've decided to pursue adoption" and "STEPH, WE'RE NUMBER ONE ON THE WAIT LIST!!!" all that changed for me. In watching them give their hearts to a child they hadn't even met yet, I realized I had been looking at everything backwards. Being a parent is not about having a child who resembles you, it is about forming a child's life so he resembles God. And parenting is not about having a child who will make your life better, it's about unselfishly making a better life for a child.
(My evolution, in part, can also largely be attributed to ET's parents and their relentless pursuit of Little Matheny, who has now endured three birthdays without a family to hold him . . . and to certain other precious friends who have adopted abandoned and abused children because it was the right thing to do. My apologies for ever thinking this was a lesser way to be a family.)
Cohen: You are the MOST Darling Child. . .in every sense of the word.