The neighborhood is all aglow with the buzz of Spring.
The sharp drone of mowers up and down the street whirring through rows of lawns reborn and dearly missed saws into the house Sunday morning. It is the most thrilling sound in the world to me, like bells at Christmas or cheering under the finale on the forth of July. There is no better thing to wake up to than coffee being sipped on over the chirping of birds in the front yard, especially after a long winter with a difficult newborn.
How I have waited to introduce Scarlett to the world in the bloom of Spring. At last her first dreadful winter is over. I feel like winter is the root of all evil in our lives, and it is finally, finally over!
Spencer and I spent most of the weekend doing yard work while the kids played outside. We planted azalea bushes out front, pulled weeds, and swept the helicopter leaves out of the boat. Mary laid a blanket down in the grass and played with Scarlett while Spencer and I went to town on the flowerbed. We got some work done, but we also spent a lot of time just leaning over the neighbor’s fence, chatting about cars and ant-poison and how they’re trying to get pregnant while Matthew ran around their side of the fence with the dogs.
It was almost perfect… until Mary told us that she was offered cigarettes at her mom’s house earlier in the week.
Now I don’t write about Mary very often on here. This blog is meant mostly to record the milestones of our younger children. Part of that is because when I started this blog I knew that many of Mary’s upcoming milestones would be peppered with things like shaving her legs for the first time or finally filling out her new training bras… things that an eleven year old girl might not want her step-mom flapping her jaws about over the internet -- so we decided to give her a little privacy. The other part was because of her mom. Mary’s relationship with her biological mother is not a wholesome one. She lives with her father and I for a reason, and that reason, to summarize, is that her mom is not mentally healthy. Earlier this month, for example, Mary’s biological mom tried to have Spencer arrested for allegedly attempting to murder her. She showed up to court in a fake neck brace and was laughed out of the court room when she was caught in about half a dozen lies twenty minutes in (twenty minutes that cost us over a thousand dollars in legal fees). It’s hard to kill someone when you haven’t seen them in over a year, but that’s what we deal with whenever this person remembers that she has a daughter and decides to come around.
“It was like something out of a sitcom,” Spencer told me the day of that particular hearing (one of many we’ve had over the years) - only to Mary, this is not a sitcom, this is her life. And these little episodes aren’t much fun to live through, much less look back on once they’re over, so needless to say I choose more light-hearted topics to write about on our family blog.
Last weekend something came up with Mary that I thought I might post. Something refreshingly funny that brought her to near hysteria: Spencer and I decided that she was too young for a cell phone. “But EVERYONE has a cell phone!!” she sobbed, “I’m the only kid in my whole class who doesn’t have one!! Everyone else’s parents lets them! I just don’t understand! It’s so unfair!” When the bedroom door slammed behind her, muffled hysterics being cried into her pillow were all that could be heard for almost half an hour. It was the most dramatic show of emotion I’d even seen in my life: the normal emotions of an American pre-teen girl.
Spencer and I looked at each other when Mary stomped off, stunned in silence for a moment, not really sure how to react. And then, in the exact same moment - I’m talking as if on CUE, we both just started to laugh. It’s never easy when your kids are hurting… no matter how big or small the dilemma, but it felt good… SO, so good to know that these are the things that bring her to tears nowadays. That after so many years of legitimate strife and heartache brought on by the antics and/or absence of her biological mother, that she has finally reached such a point of normalcy that something as trivial as not getting a cell phone is what makes her sob into her pillow. We laughed at her overreaction, because it was silly, but we also laughed that day because we were celebrating a triumph of sorts. We’d prayed so many times in Mary’s younger days that she could grow up this normal.
The whole cell phone catastrophe was a triumph. But this weekend, when Mary told us that a group of twelve kids approached her at a sleep-over with stolen cigarettes, Spencer and I were quickly reminded that we are far from out-of-the-woods. Mary is at a tough age now, where even children who are brought up under the best of circumstances, in the most wholesome of families, with the best educations, thriving in the most prosperous of societies deal with making decisions that effect the direction of the rest of their lives -- Decisions they are not ready to make on their own, but that they must.
This isn’t the first time she’ll be offered something illegal. Next time it may not be cigarettes. Next time she may not say no. We have tried so hard to protect Mary from the effects of her mom’s bad decision-making; to give her as normal an upbringing as we could possibly provide in the time that we had with Mary away from her mom and the effects of her poisonous influence. Everyone is subject to peer pressure, but we have always treated Mary as if she were at a disadvantage because of her mom -- we have always thought longer and worked harder at drawing the line between right and wrong for her… we always knew that this is where it would come to blows. This is where we knew it would count: The day that Mary was faced with a decision to make of her own -- on her own.
This weekend I learned the answer to something I’ve spent the last five years of my life mauling over when it came to every decision I’ve ever made regarding Mary: whose voice it would be ringing through her ears the moment she walked away from her first real decision.