It’s amazing how your whole world changes with a few words.
“I’m pregnant. I need you.”
“I’m not coming to America. I don’t need you.”
Both these phrases have reframed my future and the future of the ones I love. It’s taken me a while to process what this means for all of us.
The first to share her news was Sunshine. About a month ago, she sent me a picture:
It was not too much of a surprise, as she and her boyfriend were talking marriage and family when I saw them in January, and they had recently found a place together. But it was so soon. And they are both so young. I knew Sunshine wanted children, and liked the idea of having a baby of her own—a being who would never leave her.
So many things are wrapped up there. My mother heart understands that desire, and knows the depths of pain from which it flows. But I know other things, too. Things like how hard it is to balance life and work and relationships and school…all with a baby. I told her many times that there is a season for everything, and not to rush the wrong season at the wrong time.
But my girl, true to the personality that we both possess, is not the most patient of people. And she’s strong and so sure of herself. She told me in the past that she was ready. Surely such a happy accident would not be bad. She would figure it out, she told me. She knew what she was doing, she told me.
And so I loved and spoke my truth, but mostly I loved. My truth is never more important than the love I possess for this darling girl.
We’re both scared and elated and wary and worried and excited and already in love with this little blessing.
And then more news came: Peter Pan’s student visa interview was scheduled for April 11th. He would go to the interview, and if he was approved, he could return to America with us a day or two after that. My boy was coming home!
I bought tickets—designed to accommodate his return—and paid all the expenses for the visa process. My parents generously offered to buy an additional ticket for Little Man so that he could be part of this transition from beginning to end.
For the first time ever, all three of my children would be together in the same place. For the first time ever. My heart was full and my mind was busy with thoughts of activities we could do together, shopping trips for the baby, and ways we could bond in the short time we had. Sunshine was overjoyed and Peter Pan was nervous.
I promised I would be there soon. I would come no matter what. My love did not depend on the decisions of governments or location. My love was my love.
And then a week ago, five days after his 18th birthday, Peter Pan dropped his bomb. He didn’t want to come. He wouldn’t even go to the interview. He didn’t want America or to live in this family. He had decided to stay in Latvia. He was fine on his own.
At first, I was shocked. I may have cried for a full day. I called him and tried to understand.
He told me that all the adults in his life told him to go to America 100%. But his friends didn’t want him to leave. And his friends knew his mind better than any adult, so this was what he was going to listen to. This is what he trusted most.
I managed to hold back the choicest of my words. But I did tell him that this was a very, very bad decision. I told him that he was not weighing his options with a correct perspective. I told him that he should reconsider. Sunshine called him too, asking him to please change his mind and choose America.
He told me no. He had gotten an apartment with a friend a few days before, and he was happy and the decision was made.
He told me not to come. He told me he didn’t need me anymore.
I told him I loved him. Always, no matter his choices.
He said goodbye and hung up.
And I had a decision to make: do I cancel the tickets and try to get a bit of money back? Do I still go anyway? What is the responsible thing to do?
But Sunshine reminded me of the things that matter. “Why would you not come?? Is Peter Pan your only child in Latvia? I still need you.”
This was true. And so was the fact that Peter Pan needs me too, even if he doesn’t believe it. After all, if what I say is true, then my love is not dependant on what he says or does. My love is just my love.
And so I will go. Peter Pan needs to see that my word is true, and my love is not predicated on pleasing me. In fact, I am far from pleased right now. This is precisely why going is even more important. Love should not be pushed away by defensive behavior. Love should stand even more firm in the hard.
And the more I thought about it, the more his decision was understandable in his worldview. He has lost everything. Who can he turn to for advice? What have adults ever given him? What do they know of him, or even care? In his world, his friends are the only ones who understand, and they are encouraging him to rely on no one but himself.
Perhaps he wants to trust me. Perhaps he doesn’t know how. Either way, the risk of coming to America is a huge one. This is an opportunity, yes. But it is also placing himself in the arms and heart of someone who might fail him like all his other relationships have—how does he know? Better to trust himself. Better to pull away before the failure occurs. Better to reject before he is rejected.
Oh, how hard this is.
How much I want to rail against such thoughts. How much I want to hurl anger at those who hurt this boy so much that he cannot accept that he is worth loving. How much I want to shake him into smart decisions.
I spent a little while angry at him, too. I played out beautiful scenarios of his humble admission after reality hits that I was so right and he was so stupid. I rolled the tangy taste of “I told you so” around in my mind and rubbed its future possibility like a salve on my wounds.
And then Sunshine, with her sassy sweetness, reminded me of the reality of told-you’s in the light of love.
She wrote to me and said, “This is so hard to be pregnant. Harder than I think before. Maybe you were right. I should have listened.”
There it was. The things I knew were true. But I didn’t feel vindication or satisfaction. I just felt more love.
I know, I told her. I know.
“But,” she said, “I already love this baby.”
I know that too, I told her. I know this love.
When you love, you don’t need to be vindicated. When you love, you don’t need to be acknowledged as being right or wise or kind. Right or wrong, winning or losing, knowing more or possessing all the wisdom… none of it matters. Because always there is love.
Love is bigger. Not easier. Not simpler. But bigger.
And these relationships—the best relationships—are built on love.
So I will still go, because I still love. I love Little Man and his messy awkwardness and the way his personality bounds and rebounds through life, bumping along and figuring it out. I love Sunshine and her sassy mind and the way she is so much of my soul and my strength and my confident insecurity. I love Peter Pan and his nerdy cuddliness and the way he is brave enough to sometimes let me crack through the closed-off bravado. And I love this little baby, not yet born but already eagerly anticipated, and the way it is enlarging my relationship with my daughter in new and exciting ways.
And this gives me hope for a future relationship with Peter Pan. I will greet him with hugs and kisses and all the love I possess. Because while his choices matter and affect me, they are still his choices. They are not the things that make me love him. They are the hard things that make loving him all the more necessary. Even if he doesn’t know it.
We will stay for five days. Our family will be together for the first time!! What an overwhelmingly joyous thought! I will invest and love and do a lot of shopping for a new little mama I love. We have a crib to buy and plans to make and little bitty outfits to croon over.
I will use my time with Peter Pan to show him that my love is consistent, even when he isn’t. I will work to build the connection that he doesn’t quite believe comes without restrictions or qualifications. I will ooh and ahh over his new place and swallow the lumps of fear in my throat. It has been said and he knows my mind. Now is the time for affirming that I still love despite it all.
And we will see what the future brings. The little one is coming in October. I’d love to be there in person but we will see. And hope and plan. And Peter Pan will try to make it on his own. Should he realize that it is indeed harder than he thought and change his mind, it is possible for him to still come to America, but it would need to wait until September now. I have filed all his papers away in hopes that perhaps his perspective will change. I am determined to simply love and let it all play out. He knows the possibility is there and can make that choice, too. But I know that only way he would ever consider it is if I keep loving unconditionally.
And so I will love each one of these dear ones where they are, each one fighting through their own brambles. I will not waste this time I have with them on their decisions and how they look different than what I wanted. Their lives are not mine to direct, and it’s not about me, anyway. Real love never is. Instead, I will speak truth and try to guide them the best I can. We will build in the present and I will encourage them in their futures. But mostly I will just love and love and love and love. I will find them where they are and give them all that I am.
That is, after all, the thing I want them to feel the most as they walk out this life.