Seasons and Voices

We are coming out of some very hard years, and very slowly settling into a new season of reuniting together and just being still, after the hard years of fostering with children coming and going, the hard years of ambulance rides and life flight helicopters, and after me working eighteen jobs while Nathan works several while trying to run children around town.  If there is anything we have learned from Kyrie’s palliative care team, it is that nothing is more important than time together.

That still means we have to have jobs, if we would like our time together include a roof over our head.  But it feels good to be completing significant phases in our recent history:  five years of thiry-eight children in diapers, chaplaincy training, and trying to teach our new children sign language so that we can share a common starting place.  Hurting my back has meant some extra time at home, as I can do one thing a day: either Kirk’s baptism OR the pinewood derby; lift Kyrie in a crisis or work a whole shift at the hospital; sit still and hide at home because I hurt, or be creative and sit still in ways that help my little ones.

For example, on my day off I wanted nothing more than to just crawl in bed and sleep for a week or five.  But, the best thing was to have some dates with my babies.  First, I knew it was Barrett’s turn for a one on one date, so I took him for a haircut:

 

He was very impressed with himself afterward, and anything that reminds him that he is almost five (and so please let’s be five instead of two) is good with me.

 

Anber’s turn was the next time, and on that day I took her for hot chocolate.  She wanted to “talk some girl talk,” which turned out to be how smart we are, so that was hilarious.

 

 

Another thing I was able to do with the kids in the last few weeks, while sitting very-very- still and resting my broken ribs, was taking them to see Hidden Figures.  We have been discussing NASA in science, as we prepare to go visit there in Houston this summer, and obviously black history and culture is always of huge important for my girls.  But I also want my boys to understand, all my children to understand, where we have come from as a nation and as people, so that they better understand what is happening right now and what kind of people they want to be in the future.  I did preview the movie first, since it was obviously a movie for grown-ups, to be sure it was appropriate for the children.  But it was great, and I loved it, and they were dying to see it.  So I spent some time talking to them about the story before we went, including researching the real people and understanding the story and what was happening in the background with NASA and Russia at the time, even who JFK was and they loved that Martin Luther King was in the story.  Then we finally got to go see the movie with our tickets given us by a friend.  We were so grateful!

The kids loved it!  They were glued to the screen, soaked in every bit, and cried in all the same places I did.  They really understood!  I loved seeing them cheer, not caring who else was in the theater, when the one woman won the court appeal to go to college, and when the supervisor woman walked her group of programmers into the room full of men who didn’t know how to make the computer work, and when the other woman saved John Glenn’s flight (and life).  I loved seeing the looks on my girls’ faces when they saw daughters with brown skin on screen for the first time, when they shouted “Mama!” and pointed at the screen to see the same hair braids I give them, and when the man knocked down the colored restrooms sign.  And I was glad to see my boys cheer, too.

I love these kids, and I am really, really proud of them.

Mary and Kirk have really matured so much, and grown up so much.  It is fun to be starting new things with them as older children instead of just babies.  Nathan and I officially introduced them to Doctor Who this week, and they love it!  We kept warning them it might be scary, but so far they have laughed through all the scenes that terrified me!  They are braver than I am, I guess!

Alex is doing really well, too, and even is regulating his responses and noise-making and emotions so very well.  I am really proud of him.  He even came inside twice from playing outside during the little ones’ naptime the other day, and managed to get what he needed and get back outside without waking them up!  I was so proud!  Autism, though, presents a challenge, however, with discerning reality and television or movies.  He’s not ready for the good Doctor, but I think he will flip out in excitement and appreciation once it is finally his turn.  He is making progress that direction, finally clicking what reading means – not just being able to read, but realizing that the words in a book actually tell a coherent story, so we are introducing so good tales that are super fun and imaginative so that he can better appreciate some of the books and movies we enjoy, without them needing to be a children’s cartoon or without him needing to act them out for the next three months.

Together, they have all really gained an interest in politics.  Not politics like we think of it, but history, and putting the pieces together, and noticing connections between long ago and now.  They are realizing adult have different opinions about things, and that how not everything is so black and white.  They are realizing some people fight badly for good principles, and other people are bad and ignore principles all together, and that this can happen across party lines.  It’s some serious abstract thinking for such little ones, and it’s fascinating to watch them explore – and sometimes challenging to experience the questions they discover.  I love watching them learn and grow!

We did get a good handful of nasty grams for a video that we let the children make of them protesting (on our own front porch at home) and chanting Let Them In!  Let Them In!

But the people who know us, and our family, and read our blog or our book would understand better why this is one we let the children do.

We have been studying citizenship, and protests are a part of history – especially in deaf culture, and black culture, and disability culture.   We have also been studying history itself, including the persecution that happened in our own faith tradition, as refugees from abroad became refugees from Missouri.

We also just watched Hidden Figures, in which there are historical protest scenes which looked to the children a lot like recent political protest marches in recent weeks.  So we have been talking about protests, and why people participate or don’t, and what they would want to protest or not, and why some protests are effective and others are not. We also talked about practical pieces, like safety, and about respect, and about being wise enough to stick to principles and obeying the laws of our land – which is different than just being hateful and angry.  We talked about the difference between peaceful protesting for a specific human right, and political protesting for particular political agendas.  We talked about chanting at protests, silent sitting protests, and rioters that are troublemakers and cause problems instead of solving them.  These are big things the children need to learn and understand, especially if this is the world they are growing up in because of what the adults are doing throughout their childhood.

Besides this, the children know that Kyrie’s biological family is Muslim, and that the grandparents were currently traveling and got caught in all the political drama.

For all these reasons, hearing on the news that refugees got stuck in an airport, unable to enter the country because of political drama, really had an impact on the children.  Regardless of political sides, what they knew were that friends and family were stuck there, and that specific faith groups were being targeted as ours has in the past, and all these pieces we have been talking about.  So that’s when the children decided to chant their own little protest, and for those reasons.

They didn’t go downtown last week to protest Trump’s wall he wants to finish in the mountains between here and Mexico, and they didn’t go yesterday to protest about a pipeline they don’t yet understand yet.

But friends stuck in an airport?  They understand that.

People targeted because of their religion?  They understand that.

People targeted because of their ethnicity?  They understand that.

People trapped against their will?  They understand that.

They even understood that the President said one thing, a judge said another, and the military voted for backing up the President.

It wasn’t about politics for them.

It was about people.

So in this case, we let them show their support, and were proud of them for doing so.

But doing so comes with great responsibility: it makes a political statement whether they intended to or not, and so that’s the next part of what they have to think about – and the implications of it.  The challenge isn’t just to rescue others, or even to comfort others.  It’s bigger than that.  There must be a rising above division, and even trying to support the voice of the oppressed implies there is an oppressor.  But it isn’t necessarily helpful to argue about who the oppressor is: the government in the country they left?  The government in the country where they arrived?  Or their neighbors back home who turned them in?  Or their neighbors here whose silence is violence?

The wise thing is rising above it all, but lifting everyone else, too.

Those are the baptismal covenants we make: to bear others’ burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, and to comfort those in need.

Sometimes, as I watch my little ones get baptized one at a time as the months roll by, I can’t help but feel like I am raising little stripling warriors, who will grow up into a world so very different than the one I will someday slip away from so quietly.

I want them to grow up wise as much as strong, and becoming wise takes practice and means learning from mistakes.  So we let them try because it teaches them something, because it’s using their agency, because it’s the only way to progress.  Sometimes these are beautiful moments we will always look back on fondly; other times they may have to chalk it up as a fail; and still other times, it could even place us all in danger.

But we are doing our best, even when we try to rest, and that’s part of growing up together.

And they must always, always have a voice, and make sure others do as well.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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