Each night, I pull Big L in for a hug and whisper “I love you”. For a second, I think how this has become routine, but then I see her face just before she whispers “I love you, too.” I see her soaking up those words.
And, I think of all the times I’ve said those words out of obligation. All of the times I’ve said “I love you, too” as though I would have said “goodbye”. She’s never had that. The grandparents I told “I love you, too” before I hung up the phone. Or the dad I awkwardly told “I love you too” as we battled through my teen years. Or how I can always count on my mom to say “I love you”, on the phone when we’re apart. Big L’s never had those abundance of “I love you”s. Now, my careless words are so treasured by her.
Seeing things through Big L’s eyes is such an experience. I tire of hear “Mama, look! Mama, look! Mama, look!” all day long, but I think there is something spiritual in seeing the world with such wonder. To her, each bird and each squirrel is a special treasure to be delighted over. I rarely appreciate these tiny creations, but she sure does.
A few weeks ago, I felt frustrated with her, with her attitude and her behavior. I regularly remind myself how she is just a child, and one who has never had the advantage of proper parenting. A child figuring things out on her own. As I stewed over her behavior, the deep realization hit me that I am so glad that God does not deny me love based on my own behavior. He loves me and forgives me no matter what. In that light, her missteps seemed so tiny.
This evening, we had family photos with Big L taken. I found a super cute dress for Big L and it was very cheap, so I got one in Lena’s size, too. I didn’t want them to wear matching dresses for the photos, so I set Lena’s dress aside. I also wasn’t sure how Big L would react to having the same dress as a girl so much younger than her. I snuck Lena into my room tonight to show her the dress, knowing she’d be delighted. Well, she showed Big L right away.
Seeing the dress, Big L screamed, “I HAVE A SISTER!!!!” She picked Lena up and spun her around, screaming “SISTERS!!!!” And then she hugged both boys and said “I HAVE BROTHERS!!!” She skipped around with them the rest of the evening, “Come here, sister and brothers!”
I had no clue that a pair of matching dresses would get such a reaction, nor did I think that Big L would be so over the moon about matching a child half her age. But, perhaps there’s something about matching your “sister” that says “we belong”. We match, so we must belong together.
The thing that really amazes me most about Big L is that I know she’s been through a lot. There’s no child who is an orphan and hasn’t experienced loss. Knowing bits of her story, her loss is real and profound. But, she is still full of joy. If I have a bad attitude or lose my patience, she just forgives me, without a second thought. I have a lot to learn in that way.
It is such a privilege to love Big L and have a chance to see the world through her eyes.