A Change of Season

September has hit us hard around here. I am not sure what it is. I believe that our friend “Grief” has come back to visit. And not just me. This time it is here for the kids too. I get selfish and forget sometimes that they have something to grieve. These times remind me that they have lost something also.

I think this September has been extra hard just because Karissa stayed at school for the summer. She has always come home for the summer before. Maybe not as long as she could, but this summer she was only here for a couple of weekends. And for the anniversary of her sister’s death. She didn’t have a choice about that. I told her that I would drive the 45 minutes to her rented house and pull her from her bed if I had to. She was already planning on coming. We need to be together as a family on that day.

Even though the twins were only 3 when she moved away for her first year of university, I think they sense her absence as much as the older kids. She is the surrogate parent. The buffer, at times, between them and me. Especially with Josiah. She understands him far better than I am afraid I ever will. She is the one who happily takes them on her errands. She treats them to breakfast out and doesn’t lose her patience nearly as often as I do. I joke with her that she will be the one who gets to raise them if something happens to Pete and I. She has volunteered to take the twins to their university open houses when the time comes. She says that I won’t be able to negotiate an active campus tour in my old age (and my wheelchair)!

I treasure the times when she is home. I love to see her. I also love to be able to slip away unaccompanied and know that everything is okay. Our middle kids are getting to the age when we should be able to leave them at home together but I worry. Josiah knows he is oldest at home now and should be “in charge” but he isn’t as dependable because of his special needs. The younger kids always give Eden a hassle. Pete and I left for a couple of hours a couple of weeks ago and I think we got a phone call from home every 15 minutes. That doesn’t usually happen when Karissa is here.

I think one of the biggest changes this fall is Josiah’s entrance into high school. It is hard to imagine that he is old enough to be in grade 9. He is tall enough. I am afraid to measure him because I believe he is taller than me. I would rather not know for sure. He wasn’t really showing any signs of being anxious for most of the summer. We had enrolled him in summer school and he was a trooper. He passed his course. He became better friends with a couple of kids from our church and it was a really positive way for him to begin his high school career. He caught his bus on the first day of school and just did his day. We’ve had a couple of bumps in the road since then. He wanted to drop science because he was convinced that someone was going to blow the classroom up with all the chemicals they use. I told him that his teacher wouldn’t let that happen and he has to take science. He isn’t impressed. He also doesn’t believe me. Then, to exert some new-found independence, he decided that he didn’t want to take art. I talked to the guidance counsellor and told him to go in and change it. He did. He is spreading his wings.

He has also decided that he no longer has to listen to me. I guess he has decided that he is too old to need a mom. He reminds me of a story my grade 10 math teacher told my class about his dog. He had a large dog who he would have to pin down, on occasion, so that the dog would know who the boss was. I feel like I need to do that with Josiah. Unfortunately, his height and weight against my height and weight would probably render me helpless to pin him. Maybe his dad could. Then again, he isn’t having problems with his dad.

This month has also brought with it a number of birthdays. I always get stressed about birthdays. I always have. Now they are worse. Absences are more noticeable when you are trying to celebrate. Eden moved from preteen to full-blown teenager last week. It feels like she is embracing it completely. Not only is she developing a full social life, she has adopted a common teenage attitude. I haven’t completely fallen from her grace but I am definitely slipping fast. I look at her the wrong way. I don’t appreciate her sense of style. I embarrass her in public. I guess I’m not her favourite person these days.

There are a lot of ways, though, that she has stayed a little girl. She hates being at home alone. She HATES it. If Pete is out and Josiah is with me, getting the twins after school when she gets home, she will call my cell. Repeatedly. Last week she even left home again and came and met us as we walked home. She may not always like me but she dislikes being alone more so she gets to hang out with me.

Eden’s fears have been trying to run rampant lately. Especially her fear of death. Her death. My death. Her dad’s. It doesn’t help that she can find more scary stories on the internet than anyone I know. Sometimes I think there is someone else working the mouse, feeding her anxieties to her. The worst part of it for us as parents, though, is that she always has to tell us what she has seen. On one hand, it is a blessing that she isn’t sneaking around, filling her head with darkness and we have no idea. But it becomes tiring to always hear every detail of her fears. And we do. And not just once. Everything she tells me, she tells her dad and vice versa. It has gotten to a point that I can hear the story from another room while she tells Pete and I stop her before she can even start when she comes to me. Some could criticize me, I’m certain, for failing to listen to her but there is only so much darkness I want in my home. She invites a lot in.

She found a story today on Pinterest that she brought me to read. I couldn’t read all of it. My forty-something year old eyes were having trouble with the microscopic text but the gist of it was so wrong–so very wrong, that I had to stop her and ask her how the light of God’s truth compared to what she was reading. It is a daily struggle–exposing the lies with The Light but it is the only way to keep the darkness away. I wish I had the words to banish her fears. In the end, I am sure she will be stronger because she concurred them. But she isn’t there yet.

The beginning of grade two has been a struggle for our youngest kids. Between some humidity-induced asthma attacks, a new teacher for only the second time in their lives, a best friend in a different class and the separation anxiety of having to go to school, we are usually exhausted by the time 7:30 rolls around. But the fun hasn’t been stopping then, lately, either. We have been spending hours herding little people back to bed. Apparently, we may be tired but they aren’t!

All these milestones, all these struggles, remind me of how fast time goes. This week Karissa will turn 21. I remember waiting for her to arrive. Those months where she preferred to sleep during the day and cry all night. I don’t feel old enough to have a 21 year old. But she broke me in. She and Arlynne. We have done the beginning of high school, the onset of teenage hood and grade two a number of times before. We aren’t exactly the new kids on the block! What has been impressed most on my mind, though, is how each of them is so very different. Nathan may have asthma like Arlynne did. Eden may be intellectually gifted like Karissa. Josiah and Sarina may show the same determination. But all in all, they are each their own person. The people God created them to be.

I can see the ripples of losing Arlynne in my kids’ lives. I wish I didn’t. I mourn the loss of some of their innocence. I can see how it has changed them. I see how it has changed me. When someone shared Romans 8:28 around the time Arlynne died, it really upset me. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.(NIV)” I want to believe that I have been called by God but I hate to think that losing Arlynne has been “good”. I may come to the day when I will be able to say that. I’m not there yet. But I can say that My God is good. His ways are good. I may not understand them. My kids might not. But ultimately, His purpose in my life is good. And the way He changes me, the way I let Him change me, is good. And He can make good in my kids lives too.

When we have to start something new again, the past, with her, becomes even more distant. Moving into the fall has been hard. But I trust Him…