room to breathe

Naturally, I care a lot about what my big boys think – of me, our family, and pretty much everything that goes along with it. They didn’t ask to have a stepmom or half-siblings, and I never want them to look back on these years with regret or bitterness. I know that family is family regardless, but I’m super tender when it comes to my bonus boys. I’m sensitive about the little kids annoying them. I want to cook the meals they like. I look for ways to honor and empower them. I include them in most of our decision-making conversations.

When we fell in love with this house, I couldn’t help but think about the sacrifices it would include for the big boys. They would give up the walking distance they had to friends. They would no longer have a cement driveway or neighborhood street on which to ride bikes and skateboard. It would be awhile before we could fix the plumbing and offer them a working shower. It would be awhile before we could expand the wiring and offer them convenient outlets in every room. Would they even have any interest in a historic home? Would they be able to get past the musty smell and the crooked walls? They toured the place a few times and said they loved it, and so we moved forward. But every now and then, I look around and see all of the improvements still to be made. We’ve only been here a few months, but I fear that this house will never be “just right” for them until years after they’ve left.

One of the boys unknowingly spoke into this recently, as we drove past a still-in-progress neighborhood on our way home from church. The sign at the front advertised homes at more than double the price of ours. He had no idea of this, of course, but he began to ask me questions about the neighborhood and why he continues to see areas like this popping up all over. We talked about people’s desires to own their own home and have their own space, and we reminisced about building our previous home on a similar lot just a few years back. He was quiet for a second, and then he asked,  “What would you rather have – an expensive house or room to breathe? I’d rather have room to breathe.”

I smiled and asked him if that meant that he likes where we live now. He said yes,* and I smiled again. That nagging voice of doubt seemed quieter now. As if I needed any more confirmation, we arrived home just in time to join some friends outside. We spent the entire afternoon in our front yard with two neighboring families, throwing football and climbing trees and sweeping up leaf piles for jumping. We sat on blankets and shared snacks and stories about the things we’d like to do together on this land.

*Full disclosure: The boy followed his affirmation with an ever-present reminder that we still have work to do… something about the upstairs (non-working) bathroom being “kinda ehhhh” and that he’s seen roaches in it. But hey, I agree! Let’s get that bathroom working ASAP, shall we?

I can’t give my kids the world in an instant, and I can’t afford to give them unrealistic expectations. All I can do is be honest and open, and encourage them to find joy in every season. It sounds like in this case, though, they might not need as much encouraging as I thought.

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