I had known some of the lesser should’s—I should have slept more last night, shouldn’t have brought that up, I should let him know—the minor leagues.
In 1999 I met the World Champion Should’s when I became a parent.
One day I wasn’t a mother, and the next, I was the mother to two very sick, neglected and very malnourished kids, about to turn two and four years old.
We became parents in Ukraine and had to finalize our adoption in Warsaw, Poland. Something occurred in Warsaw that I didn’t know then, but understand now, to be foreshadowing for the next sixteen years of our lives.
After staying in a very run down, depressing hotel in Kiev, where our phone was a party line and there were two cots for Dale and I to sleep on, we were over the moon to stay at the opulent Sheraton in Warsaw where, when we checked into our room, we saw a bottle of wine a friend had sent.
We were brand new parents with our beautiful kids and everything seemed perfect.
Our older son, who was nearly four, but spoke no words, saw the bathtub and became very excited. I drew a bath for him which he lingered in and loved.
I watched my son in the bath while my husband watched our younger son in the room. My husband poured a glass of the wine and called the friend to thank him. I went out to take a picture of him on the phone, smiling, holding his glass of wine. We were a happy family.
Then parenthood happened.
As I returned to the bathroom there was a scream. Ethan had somehow slipped forward and banged his head so hard on the spout that a huge bruise immediately began to form. Four years in an orphanage, and not a mark on his body; less than 48 hours with us, and he has a golf ball on his head.
My husband came running in the bathroom to see what happened. Upon his arrival to the bathroom, we heard a cry from the room. Our younger son had gone to the desk where Dale’s glass of wine sat, picked it up and poured it over his head.
These three events-me taking the picture of my smiling husband, Ethan smashing his forehead into the faucet and Thad pouring wine over his head all happened within ninety seconds.
I shouldn’t have left Ethan to take the picture. Dale shouldn’t have left Thad to come check on Ethan.
That was the night our should’s and shouldn’t’s began.
It would be years before I met their arch enemy: compassion and forgiveness.