by Jen Hatmaker
Something has happened to my laid-back parenting style since the arrival of our two newest Hatmakers from Ethiopia. I've taken a couple of steps backward...past caution, right through watchful, and all the way to fantasy, apparently. Conversation between my husband Brandon and me:
J: I feel so frustrated.
J: We have a fresh slate with Ben and Remy. We haven't ruined them yet. This is the time to introduce our systems and chore charts and stuff. We need a marble jar for good behavior. I read about that somewhere. I really want to show them how we run a smooth, efficient home with teamwork and diligence.
B: What family are you talking about?
J: The Fake Family I invented in my head.
B: Uh-huh. And how's that working out for you?
J: It's awesome. I love Fake Family. Their kids wash their hands after using the bathroom every single time.
I had these ideas about bringing the kids home to a perfectly run household with impressive systems; our food was organic obviously, and our kids miraculously stopped fighting. They would track with math and science scores reported from Japan. They would certainly not become addicted to Movies on Demand or Angry Birds, because they could only earn a maximum of fifteen minutes of screen time a week after completing their chores and "bonus exercise points" through the online job chart we finish each night, after enjoying the Ethiopian meal I made from scratch but before their systematic language instruction, which would just reinforce the conversational practice they'd enjoy with our Amharic tutor three days a week, refreshing their native tongue and instructing the rest of us as well. We'd all be pretty fluent by Halloween.
Fake Family is impressive. Let me tell you.
As it turns out, I'm still susceptible to fatigue and discouragement. My other kids didn't kick that selfish gene. I still don't have a working laundry schedule that I stick to for more than two weeks. I fed my daughter Chick-Fil-A on her fourth day in America. Ben knows how to work the Apple TV by himself. The kids' closets are galloping toward entropy.
Ladies and gentlemen, we've had lice.
I'm learning this: kids don't need a perfect family...they just need a loving one. I suspect one day our kids will not recall the laundry piled on our couches or every little time we blew it, but I hope they carry into adulthood the security that they were wanted, they were adored, they were cherished, and they were loved. Parents, we might not get it all right even seven out of ten times, but failure is not a deal breaker inside the safety of a family. I pray one day we launch our kids into this world whole and healed, redeemed by their Savior and transformed simply because we loved and stayed...imperfectly and beautifully.
Admittedly, I miss Fake Family. I loved them so much. I told Brandon:
J: I'm still holding out hope for Fake Family. I think I might be able to pull it off.
B: You put body lotion in our daughter's hair.
J: Alright. Never mind. Pass the Pringles.