I Love You For Who You Are!
As I wrote about propelling kids into life, their faces came to mind; not just the faces of their adult lives but the little faces of their childhood too.
There has always been the great debate in families; a debate made most famous by a skit the Smother’s Brothers performed back in the 60’s – “Mom Always Loved You Best.” Some kids strive to be the favorite, other kids decide it’s too much work and rebel against the parents and some seem oblivious to the notion.
I truly don’t know the dynamics of that in our own family, but I can assume that there is an assumption from outsiders that John and I “naturally” love our blood children best. First, in our immediate family we did not use the word stepchild. We didn’t claim our “step-children” as our own, but would say, Nate and Meg are Debi’s children with Michael, and Justin and Marta are John’s children with Beth. We simply spoke the truth, rather than imposing what is to me, an irritating label for blended children. As for Joey and Gabe, They were always called the “Ours” in our “Yours, Mine and Ours” family. Divorce is ugly enough without creating divisive labels for the children. As damaging as divorce can be, John and I agreed that we would be even more compelled to be responsible for and committed to raising children in a loving home where our priorities were, God, Marriage, and Children first. After divorce, the children should not cannot wait for the adults to get their act together. In order to move on as best they can, they at least need to know that they are still priority in their parents’ lives. These kids needed the unity of family from all “parental units” as they would lovingly call us!!
We blended like Gorilla glue in a sawdust factory into what has become known as the Flor-Pit family. I fought off those remarks and questions of how we could possibly not favor one kid over the other. My reflections on family last blog started to clarify the reasons I don’t have a favorite. To those parents who say they do have a favorite and feel all parents do I say, "That is part of "your own growth." Some people say one is not being honest if you don’t recognize you do have a favorite. I say, it is not in my thinking or feeling to stop and evaluate each child and prioritize them to a favorite’s list. They change too fast and what’s the point? I don’t want the job!!!
When entering parenthood, Sesame Street became a learning place for me as well as for Nate. Mr. Rogers was my secondary learning spot and Erma Bombeck was my idol. Overall, a constant message was to tell the children, “I love you just the way you are.” That was a pretty safe statement for a parent in any situation. It could mean, “even though you just threw pebbles through Mrs. Schmitz’s parlor window, I love you just the way you are.” Or, it could mean, “now that you are settled and sleeping and look like an angel, (despite the fact you just threw pebbles through Mrs. Schmitz's parlor window,) I love you just the way you are.” It could mean, “You are perfect just the way your are.”
As I look at these kids – now adults, I realize I love each one of them for who they are and who they are becoming. I love them and would choose them for life friends if we met for the first time on the street today. I miss them and am lonely for them because they add so much to my life when I am with them. They are intelligent, and curious, fun-loving and artsy, jokesters and spiritual, hard working and yet take time to relax and play. They are respectful to others and kind to friends. We are included in their parties, and they encourage us to try and learn new things. They are grateful to us and they appreciate the financial struggle we went through to raise them and now practice a fun frugalness of their own; abiding by the family motto: “Never pay full price for anything.”
How do you pick a favorite from this list?
Nathan: You are kind, curious, social, a softie with boundaries, drumming to your own beat, and with humility, following your dreams with the gifts God gave you. You are hilarious and watching you watch something funny on You Tube is funnier than the video. Your natural gifts and talents, your confidence in them, along with planning and hard work have put you where you are. Apple! You embody the philosophy of Apple! You are brilliant. You are creative and inventive. How many 20-somethings actually build a Tetrus Bar or a full-sized PacMan throwback arcade center for their homes? You teach with patience and make us learn without using you as a crutch. You are a loyal friend to others, fun to be with and have a sense of humor handed down through the generations. (Lots from your Mommy’s side, but lots of the dry British humor from your Dad’s.) Music rules your being and the diversity of music on your playlist defines who you are; diverse, multi-talented, rock starish, nostalgic and progressive. Self taught in so many areas, including guitar, you are the King of "figuring it out." Nathan, we love you for who your are.
Justin: Until Preston was born, I hadn’t seen a more curious child – needing to know about things as soon as you came upon them. Your work ethic has always been top-notch with, “Let’s get ‘er done” emoting from your actions before the comedic line was ever created. From raking leaves in neat lines into square piles, to practicing diligently on theviola until it was mastered, you always did and do your best. You could sell ice to the Eskimos. You make the most out of every waking minute, filling your life with facts about the world we live in. You are brilliant. A soon to be Ph.D, you are not just book learning brilliant, but resourceful in all aspects like, finding the best water park, camping site, hiking trail, pizza, library, museum. You have a sense of life-responsibility that falls in line with your priorities and they are in alignment with Jenn and Preston. You are an awesome husband and Daddy. Fearless and fun-loving describes you well. You embody, “If you can think it, you can do it.” Justin, we love you for who you are.
Meagan. You are a star from heaven. Quiet spoken, you may speak louder than others who have to shout to the world to say who they are. Softly, you step through life following your dreams with an authenticity many of us never achieve. You are gentle and kind yet firm in boundaries. You have the child-like quality that Jesus calls us to. You look at life from the pureness of a child but the wisdom of a seasoned adult. You are funny, spontaneous, and humble. You too, are creative and thrifty. You are brilliant. Following your heart, you worked hard in a field you love and now hold a job in music; really, these days??? --A vocal teacher--a dream come true. You are supportive and encouraging and those qualities were unmistakable when you stood by Daniel’s side through the death of his father, and his successful endeavor to own his own chiropractic business. It was your faith that allowed you to help him make those choices and helped you choose to relocate, giving up a teaching job to follow him. It is no coincidence that you were offered a new job – the job of your dreams in the same town as his new business that very week. You are one who believes dreams really do come true and shows the world that truth. Meagan, we love you for who you are.
Marta: You are a spirited, highly motivated person who does not take “no” for an answer. That quality started showing up shortly after your signature growly voice started to go away and you became a miniature yet well qualified defender on the soccer field. Nothing could get around you; on the field, in school, and in your life endeavors. You knew your life priorities and boundaries well enough that you chose those priorities as a teen and stuck to them to get you where you are now. You are brilliant--a Doctor! And, you too, have come to understand your life priorities so that you can blend your life-vision, passions, and love for family with your career. You are analytical, kind, fun-loving, adventurous and appreciative. You know how to have fun and you are gracious with giggles when big brothers pull the wool over your eyes. Your love for simplicity encompasses your shopping style, and your way of living to thrive not thriving to live. You find a way of prospering in your elegant simplicity. You are unique and that uniqueness evolved through living in the moment and accepting the Marta who is – not settling for less but not wanting for more. Bold, self-confident and brave, Marta, we love you for who you are.
Joey: You are a fearless yet sensitive being. Building on your foundation of faith, your ruling source for your life journey is clearly your faith belief. You are brilliant and that brilliance is expressed in your own authentic and unique way of doing things. Athleticism was your middle name; loving, following and participating in sports from a young age. You excelled in baseball, football and basketball. Football was a part of you and your instincts for the game made you successful. Those very instincts are what propelled you to your Special Forces training success. Self confident, you have understood this call to serve from a young age when you were the lead class mediator in your 2nd grade class. One year you chose firefighting/EMT ROP training over football and that year you put your knowledge into action when we were rear-ended on I-5. You were born a rescuer – not an enabler, but a rescuer. You have the quick wits to jump in and help and the fearlessness to do it. Your tenderness showed with your relationship with Rosie the first, (the black lab) and your brilliance became evident with Rosie II, (the guitar.) You can learn anything in your own time, at your own pace, and for your own reasons. You would rather say hello to friends than goodbye. You find the humor in everything, even difficult training, and can tell a story like your Papa – giggling at your own words as you go. Joey, we love you for who you are.
Gabe: Some people have said you earned your name from Gabriel the arch angel . Yes, you were an angelic child, but as you’ve grown older you have balanced that saintly wisdom with the reality of life. You are kind, sensitive and generous. You counter-balance that virtue with a healthy placement of aggression shown most clearly on the soccer field and the football field. Like sister Marta, no one could get past your quick feet on the soccer field. Your instincts and judgment in football earned you positions on teams that would normally be left to the big guys but you proved that your understanding of the game, alertness, strategic knowledge, perseverance and pounding drive made you a starter-choice. Your kindness, and ability to work with and communicate with others were the virtues that made you a manager in the Pacific call center. You have a great sense of humor and you are fun to make laugh – just ask your siblings, they bring you joy. Like your brothers and Mom, you chose to teach yourself a musical instrument and continue to sing with your heart. You are brilliant. You are humble about your achievements and choose to be one amongst others rather than one who needs to stand out. You know who you are but you are always willing to learn more. Well-liked by others, you, in turn, like other people and see them as they are with no expectations to change them. You live with simplicity and high regard for others’ feelings and choose to be a “brother and friend’ to so many. Gabe, we love you for who you are.
Looking over this list, I could so easily write just one paragraph using pretty much the same descriptive words for each and it would be hard to tell which child I am talking about. Each child is blessed with gifts and talents of their own. Each child is living an authentic life. Each child brings to the family their own brilliance that combines to form this blended family. Each child could easily be my best friend. Using the term best-friend anymore doesn’t work for me. We have too many best friends. I like the term – Life friend or sister-friend or brother-friend, which implies they are closer than just any friend; a category that not many achieve in my realm.
The kids are good, rock-solid souls that are contributing to the world in diverse ways. They are constantly learning, sharing, laughing, giving, singing and joining together in their own communities to make the world a better place. Rather than picking a favorite child, I see how each child has broadened my understanding of life and how I could not learn and grow without any of them. I love them for who they are and just the way they are. I love them just the way they are because they are not stagnant but always moving forward with intent, in love and with joy. When I am with a child individually I love them with my whole being whether we are sitting and watching a movie or if we are cooking together. I don’t love them anymore than any of the others but I am loving them in the moment with all my heart and am grateful for the moment in time. Love compounds with children. I love each child as if they were an only child. They don’t have to compete for love, because each is my favorite. That works, because they are all the same and all different. They are authentically my favorite.
All are brilliant stars in and of themselves. Each illumines my life well enough to be the light in my life but like the Christmas star, when merged together, they form a brilliance that brings tears to my eyes. My heart is full and I am grateful for these precious lives that fill my home with light.
Yes, I have a favorite: Nathan, Justin, Meagan, Marta, Joey and Gabe. I love you for who you are.