The one thing I was most curious about, prior to actually meeting Toktogul, was how long it would take to really feel "in love" with him. Would he feel like a neighbor kid hanging out and overstaying his visit? Would it take months...or even years...to feel that this was not an interloper in our midst? If I am honest and admit it to the world, I was afraid I might never feel "it" for him, simply because he had not been in my arms since infancy. Inviting an older child permanently into your life is much different than taking in a snuggly, adorable infant (OK, in Joshie's case a prickly, screaming infant!). They are fully formed in many ways, they have their own quirks, attitudes, and years of experiences behind them that you are not privy to. While there are many children I have met over the years that have been easy to love, despite the fact that they were not mine, there were just as many that I could never imagine parenting...and I wondered if Toktogul would be one of the former or one of the latter.
I wasn't unrealistic in my expectations, and in fact I think I had none. I knew this was an ongoing process and frankly, I didn't fall instantly in love with Matthew or Joshua either. They were complete strangers to me and while I was "in like" with them, it took time to discover who they were and to fall in love with them. I have never put any pressure on myself about this, as I always knew it would happen in time if I just allowed it. I just figured that this time around I would have to have a lot of patience and we might be looking at months before I really felt like "Mom" with a capital "M".
Guess what? It's now. Toktogul has so smoothly fit into our family, his temperament is SO much like Matthew's and Joshua's. There is a softness about him, a kindness and thoughtfullness that is something I am not sure you can teach, but is part of our souls. He is familiar to me and my heart in a way that is something I can't explain, either you have experienced this yourself with someone in your life or you won't understand.
Last evening I was sitting in our dining room chatting with Dominick as he worked on fixing our freezer (only an ice dam, not a new fridge issue luckily!), the other boys were outside with 3 of their friends racing around, hooting and hollaring and having a grand old time, and Tokie was inside with us. He was standing next to me, the golden early evening sunlight casting a beautiful glow about him, and we were just talking amongst the 3 of us about nothing in particular, goofing around and giggling about something as he has this wonderful sense of humor. I realized at that moment that I loved him, that I wanted nothing more than to hold him, to cradle him in my arms and make up for lost time. I had this dizzying sense of joy at God's goodness at bringing this little boy into our lives, and in such a way that His plan could never be denied. You know how it feels when your heart fills up? When you are so happy with someone, and you just want to grab on and never let go? That is what it feels like right now for me and Tokie. I think I have truly claimed him as mine, and this is very, very soon for that to have happened.
But what's not to love about the little guy? He is very thoughtful and helpful around the house...never complaining about picking things up or doing anything that is asked. He is much like Matthew like that, just gets in and gets it done, I am a lucky mommy to have two out of three who really don't mind doing work. Joshie always does it, but is more like a "normal" kid and whines often about it :-) Keeps me grounded, I guess! Hahahaha! Tokie's curiosity is phenomenal, and Dominick and I both get a real kick out of seeing his little brow knit together as he tackles putting together and taking apart a flashlight, and we are allowing him to do as much of that kind of stuff as he wants, as long as it is safe. I mean, is it really worth correcting him over flipping the lights on and off every time he passes by them?? What does it hurt? He'll eventually stop once he gets past this stage, we've got a lot of toddler exploring to cram in right now!
He is also thoughtful in other ways. Joshie was sleeping in our bed last night, and Tokie came in and brought him his special blankie knowing Joshie has to sleep with it every night. He saw Dominick had emptied the kitchen trash can yesterday, and he went in search of bags to put back in the can. A couple of the younger boys were playing roughly on the trampoline yesterday, and he gently made them stop it. He had a snack and he gladly shared it with Matthew with no prompting. He thanked Matthew for reading us all books last night. In some ways, it is as if he has already been raised by us the way he behaves around our home and with the other boys. I have found myself shaking my head many times at how God obviously made this child for us and our family, and how He also helped us find him so far away. I know there are folks in our lives who think we are nuts to adopt these children, to spend this money, to go so far away. Thank goodness I never put much stock in what other folks have to say :-) I would be missing out on 3 blessings of a lifetime.
Tokie may dig his heels in at times when told "No" or may ocassionally exhibit typical orphanage behavior, but overall he is a delight, he is special. He is the kind of child that even if I weren't adopting him I would have advocated for him, knowing he simply HAD to get out of the environment because he has so much to offer the world and a family. I am so grateful that Karen at our agency, and so many others who had met him reassured us that he was adoptable and adaptable...I am so glad I didn't let fear step in and take over.
This is not to say we don't have our battles ahead of us. He is headstrong, he can be forcefully pushy at moments, his "selective listening" is a bit TOO male for my taste and needs to be tamed a bit :-).
But he is my son, and not a stranger in our home, and already we love him dearly. Already, I give thanks each and every day for the chance to be the mother to this particular extraordinary child, just as I do every day for Matthew and Joshua. It is not a ritual, it is what I feel daily with my kids. This barren woman who is so filled up with love for children she didn't give birth too...I have been rewarded far beyond anything I have ever deserved.