Dark Time


My life is busy.

Anyone who knows me will confirm this for you. We have three young boys – one still breastfeeding – and I started law school at the beginning of September. Our youngest decided that daytime formula feeds are just NOT acceptable, and so he reversed his feeding cycle and now feeds every 2 hours at night. I have 30-40 hours of reading and school work to do each and every week, which I wedge in on lunch hours and after bedtimes and over top of the one on one time I have allotted for me and my husband. (Side note here: if you ever decide to go to law school while you have young children, get yourself a househusband. Unlike the mythical house hippo, the househusband is a very real and very valuable addition to your life.)

My life is busy, and I am tired.

In addition to the craziness of life, the demands of going back to school full time have made me seriously wonder if my family is getting enough of me. I fought so hard for this family. I Love them more than anything and anyone else in the world. I take time – however short it may be – to be with my husband and my kids each and every day. I set aside one day each weekend where I forget about school and remember I’m a mom and a wife. But going from full time mom to full time student is bound to change the dynamic of our little home. While I love watching as Lazarus starts to fall deeper into sync with Tory, it is bittersweet knowing he is falling slightly more out of sync with me. The natural rhythms of our early months together are fading as he grows and I can’t help but feel a twinge of loss. Tory has been incredible taking care of our home and our children, but he gets almost no help from me on those fronts, and almost no time with me alone. The older two boys are already with us only half the time, so the time we do have with them carries so much more weight.

My experiences are no different than those of working parents everywhere. Tory struggled for years and under far more difficult circumstances being away from his family. It is a struggle – knowing I am doing what I need to do both for our family and for myself, but also knowing it comes at a cost. Life is full of difficult realities. And those realities, those worries, the busyness and tiredness, they can all create so much noise that we get lost in the cacophony.

And that is where I found myself tonight. I walked in the door to find Tory was frazzled and exhausted from a particularly long day. I tried to juggle feeding Lazarus and making some dinner for myself, while Tory took care of dinner for the boys and himself in between trips to the sink to finish up the dishes. All the while, the boys were in and out, asking questions, playing with friends, wanting to connect with us both. All this noise swirled around me and I wondered how we would handle it all.

But we did. We got through dinner and homework, a mishap with paint, a thumped head and some hurt feelings, another feed, bedtime for the baby and playtime with friends. We recorded L’s first adorable phone call to a kindergarten friend and set up a play date for the weekend. We talked about lying and laziness and work ethic. We played catch the caterpillar. And still the noise of things to do yet tonight were ringing in my ears.

As I poured myself a glass of wine and finished up a pot of boiled eggs for snacks, L invited me to sit with him on the porch. Now, I don’t know about you, but when one of my boys invites me to do something, I will do everything I can to participate. It took us a long time to get to a point where they wanted me to be a part of their worlds. And as boyhood quickly marches forward, who knows how much longer I will be invited in.

So I went. And I sat. And I listened. We drew words and pictures in sidewalk chalk on our steps and on the sidewalk in front of our house. L talked about how mommy’s favourite colour is orange now, not purple. We talked about how L prefers egg whites to egg yolks and about how wine is gross and about why there was only one purple chalk stick. We sent mommy some pictures of the beautiful clouds. We talked about the deep blue of the night sky.

It was nearly bedtime when L said “Brynn, I’ve always wanted to go on a dark time walk, but I never have. Will you go with me?” I told him it would have to be quick and we hurriedly gathered up the sidewalk chalk and got on our shoes. And out we went.

First, we looked at the clouds. “Look at how beautiful the sky is Brynn! See over there?! It’s God peeking out! He’s looking at that boy. Look at how dark blue the middle is. It’s my favourite colour! I love the sky at dark time.” We walked down the sidewalk, our shadows stretching out in front of us. “Ow, something pricked me! Did you know mommy punched a rose bush and the thimbles poked holes right through her glove. The electric for that street light just went out! I’ve never been to the park at dark time. Will you swing with me?” “Quickly” I say as we run across the grass.

I push L as high as I can, then hop on beside him. “I’ll try to keep swinging myself. Why are you going so much higher?! How do you do that?”. I explain that bigger people can more easily create momentum. “I know how to swing too. I’m really good at it.”

As we head back home, he laments that he can’t stay looking at the sky. “How about one day, we can sleep in the backyard and look at the stars” I say. “But what if we get scared?” “It’s ok, daddy or I will sleep with you.” “Can I sleep outside when I’m five?” he asks. “Yup” I answer. “YES! I’m five next year.”

We are almost home, maybe six houses away, when L says to me in a serious tone, “Brynn, this is the beautifullest time in my life.” All I can manage to say is “I agree”.

These next few years will be hard. There is a lot on my plate. There is a lot on all of our plates. But even though there is so much going on, even though it is all important in some way, none of it takes away from the beauty of the life we are living in the midst of all the noise. Our children remind us that life continues on, even if we are too busy to notice. And they remind us that those moments we do have – no matter how few or far between – matter more than we think.

It took the quiet of a dark time walk to let me hear the most important noise in my life – the voices of my children.

Take time for some dark time. It may be just what your soul needs.





Confessions of a Stepmom


Since giving birth to Lazarus, many well intentioned people have commented to me that while I may have two step children, having my own child is “different”. I happen to agree with this statement – it IS different. However, it’s not what is being said but what is so often implied in that kind of statement that bothers me.


You see, when these well intentioned people make these kinds of comments, by manner and tone  – and sometimes even more directly by words themselves – they imply that having my “own” child is somehow MORE. And that is a sentiment I must wholeheartedly stand against.


When I met Tory, I knew that he had two sons. I knew that unlike most people who start off their relationships as single non-parents, I would never have Tory’s undivided attention. We wouldn’t date through our infatuation, grow into Love, marry and move in together, get to know each other as a couple before committing ourselves to a family. No, if I decided to have a relationship with Tory it would mean forever (and from the very start) sharing his heart and our home with these two children whom I had no part in bringing into this world. I would never be his singular focus, and he could never be mine. It would mean working every day for the rest of my life to find a place in the lives of these kids who already had two Loving and capable parents. Anyone who has faced this choice can tell you that this is not something that is entered into lightly, particularly when the kids are so young. Not knowing what the future would hold, I chose very consciously to enter into a relationship not only with Tory but with these two precious children. And in doing so, I encountered what would become two of the greatest Loves of my life.


I wish I could say that from the start it was easy and happy and we all Loved each other. The truth is that at first it was easy, and then it was hard, and then it was very hard, and then it got better, and so on and so forth. I worked so hard to walk the fine line between friend and parental figure, trying to ease my way into the hearts of these two young boys as they eased their way into mine, without threatening the place of their already present mother. But while I had the wisdom (though minimal…) and insight of an adult, they had so little experience to work with and so much to work through. They struggled first with the falling apart of their old family and then with the coming together of their new one. They struggled with liking me and being afraid of betraying the Love of their mother. They struggled to understand how and where I could fit into their newly chaotic lives even while they were still trying desperately to figure out how they fit into it themselves. And so we trudged through, day by day, learning and growing and healing. And slowly but surely, Loving.


The boys still struggle – will always struggle – with my place in their lives. We are the kind of family that they never wanted but that they have come to Love and accept. Every day we work together to figure out the rhythm of our family. Our hearts continue to weave in and out of one another, knitting us together into a far more perfect pattern than anything we could have designed on our own.


So, is it different having stepchildren than having my “own” child? Yes, in so many ways. My Love for Lazarus grew alongside him, miraculously conjuring itself up within me only to burst forth in a brilliant and instantaneous overwhelming force all at once the moment I first held him in my arms. It reordered my very being in the blink of an eye in a way I will never fully comprehend. My Love for the boys grew slowly and carefully, cautiously creeping in bit by bit, only to consume me in the end, just as my Love for their brother did in a moment. My Love for Lazarus is transformative and beautiful, but my Love for his two brothers is edifying and humbling in a way that only that Love can be. Loving them has required of me to step aside and truly Love without expectation of anything in return.


At the end of the day, having Lazarus is different than having the boys, and yet, it is with my whole being that I Love them all. They are all my boys; they have forever changed me, each one. I will continue to struggle every day to be mother and stepmother, Loving each of our children in the way they need and deserve to be Loved while inhabiting my unique place in their lives and hearts just as they inhabit their unique but equally significant places in mine.