A(nother) year of babies and change

We’ve had a running theme for the last few weeks – change and kids. Maybe that’s not a fair time frame  –realistically, we’ve had that theme in our lives for the last five years. It feels different every time, but looking at it from a higher perspective, we’ve pretty much been focused on those two things for quite some time now.

We got new beds in the boys’ room, and I took a minute to sit down on a really busy morning to make sure we’d thought through the logistical changes required to get the mattresses in. And as I sat, I remember the last time I sat alone in this room.

Every time we’ve had an adoption match, I find myself sitting quietly in one of the kids rooms, contemplating the vast array of changes that will roll through our lives with a new arrival. It’s beyond strange to sit here planning a big boy room, knowing that everyone in this family is officially family now. Our boys are brothers. They will grow up together sharing this room the way brothers do, never remembering a time when they weren’t family to each other. David and I often laugh about how so many unrelated people in one house can have so much love. And while it may look frenzied and impractical to those who don’t live here, the busy rhythm of our lives is enriched by every single person here.

We do have another new arrival: Elise! After the upheaval we’ve gone through in the last few years, her arrival feels manageable and pleasant. The changes in the boys’ room almost feel more momentous, which is misleading considering a new person moved into our home for the next year! Elise dove right in, and already feels like part of the family. She’s fun, patient, observant, and all around delightful to be around. She taught me how to get eye drops in Griffin’s eyes! Joy handed off the torch to a winner, even though we’ve all been teary to see her go. (Goodbyes were hard! Tess lost it, and kept telling Joy how much she’d miss her. She speaks for all of us. There are really no words.)

We are adjusting to the new rhythm as Remy adjusts to the new bed. The secondary effects of all of these changes will probably have much less impact than bringing a new child home last year (or two). The era of massive shifting is moving into an era of smaller and smaller tweaks, and that feels fantastic. (Saying goodbye to someone we love less so.)

When I moved back to the United States, I remember thinking I wouldn’t be able to survive without regular travel and time overseas. Coming back felt unnatural, like I had rudely interrupted my life trajectory. When I talk about travel these days, it’s for shorter trips to recharge so I can be a better employee, mom and wife. Every time we consider a trip, I think about a big overseas adventure or exploring a new country. I know I will get back to that type of life at some point, but right now, my mom’s idea about some time in Montana is more appealing.

What I did not understand as an opera singer living abroad – sneering slightly at the habitual, robotic lives of nonartists – was what an adventure this kind of life can be. Raising kids and watching them experience their own grand adventures reminds me of how proportional “adventure” truly is. What requires more bravery than taking your first step unassisted? Or learning to apologize when your emotions are bigger than you are? What bigger leap can you take then to grow your family? What is more rewarding than being the rock and guide for growing little people? Or tethering yourself to one other person for the rest of your life in a marital leap?

We’ve observed or experienced all of the above, in some cases multiple times. Quotidien bravery still takes my breath away. The intersection of the arts and children is extraordinary in its breadth and impact, and that’s part of my every day at home and at work. When we sound Pollyanna, that’s why.

So in a minute, I will get out of this chair and this quiet room that we are building for boys bigger than we can imagine. I will squeeze all the Littles. I’ll fill my thermos of coffee and put on my coat, shivering in the dampness of the Wisconsin spring. I’ll go to the office in my SUV and sit through a day of meetings and frantic phone calls as we pull together the last strings of our big gala. And if people catch me with a little smile on my face, they’ll never guess it’s because of how happy this life makes me – this life of constant change (which I’ve always hated!), of grocery shopping and dress pants, carpools and birthday parties, meetings and memos.

I miss the quiet Saturday mornings with a novel, or late brunches with friends that almost run into late afternoon. I vividly remember the transatlantic flights and ping-ponging my way through so many countries I had no legal residence for a few years there, and miss the energy of that. But I am not missing out on my life’s biggest adventure. That is unfolding all around me on a daily basis. It leaves me drained and exhausted some days, but fulfilled and elated on others.

This is not a small life by any means. And watching our children be brave reminds me that by making my own brave choices, I have paved the way for them to be braver than I ever could. So we will embrace the coming ripples, and will try to stay out of the weeds long enough to marvel at our growing children and our incredible good fortune in loving what we do and loving those around us. Love surpasses goodbyes. Hopefully, our kids will learn that by watching us, and will feel that gratitude to their core as we continue building a shared life, together as a family and then some. Elise has already proven she’s up to the challenge of braving this life with gusto. Team Oplinger!