Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back To School For Mom

Tomorrow mommy has to go to school during music class and sit on Kenny, as I got word today that he is goofing around too much in class, disturbing the other kids and playing "Ham bone" wanting to use the microphone all the time. His music teacher is a relaxed, laid back, great guy and isn't all that disturbed by it, but I want to nip it in the bud now, so I informed Kenny that because he wasn't behaving in class I had to go with him to make sure he was going to listen and pay attention. I also learned that he is pulling the same act at school as he is at home, telling adults "no" when asked to do something. Now, this is not at all a snotty, obnoxious "NO", it is a softer, gentler-yet-still-controlling "no". So in front of his teacher I explained again that he is NEVER EVER to tell an adult "no", and that his teacher would email me immediately if he does it during the day and when he gets home he will sit on his bed for half an hour for each time he has told an adult "no" that day.

Thankfully, his teacher said that overall he is actually doing very well and they are all seeing him slowly calm down. I think in another few weeks he might settle in pretty well, but we need him to know we are very serious about this and that we all present a united front where his behavior is concerned. I want him to know that I will know everything that goes on, that I am checking up on him, and that he will get away with nothing. Sooner or later he will get the idea that the rules at school are the same as at home, and his efforts are wasted. If I have to go to school with him every day and correct him every 20 seconds until he improves, then that is what I will do! I have always threatened Matthew that if he misbehaves in school I will show up and sit next to his desk until his behavior is corrected, and maybe him seeing this actually happen with Kenny will let him know I am dead serious about it...not that it has ever even come close to being an issue with him.

So much of this can be attributed to simple immaturity and boredom in class when he doesn't understand something. While I understand the causes, I am responsible for trying to correct it. I think what bothers me the most is not Kenny's behavior, but him being a distraction to the other students and a burden on the teachers who already have their hands quite full. We all agree though that soon, when they start his ESL pullout and speech pullout that some of this might lessen a little as he will be more actively engaged at a level he can understand and participate in. In the meantime though, I am ever so grateful to those who are working with him daily and showing such great patience and understanding.

Tonight we went out to dinner with our Social Worker and family friend, Joan, as she was gathering information for a post-placement report for Kenny. All 3 boys adore her, and she is wonderful to them as well. I am so lucky to have such a great resource to turn to if the going gets rough, and I wonder how many others really have a good relationship with their agencies and social workers or if they view it more from an adversarial perspective. That is so sad because I think it is often forgotten that these folks are there to help families work well, not to judge us. Because they have the job of trying to capture our life in words for peop;le who will utlimately amake the judgment we are scared of them instead of viewing them as part of our support team. Joan has really made a difference for our family, especially with Josh and his RAD, and I went into this adoption of Kenny knowing I had someone on my side who had great experience and who really cared if we succeeded or not. If issues did arise, there was someone in our corner who could help. I am not only lucky to have her as our social worker, but as a trusted and caring friend.

As we sat there talking about all that Kenny is doing now, how he has grown in size and language acquisition, I found myself surprised that something so monumental happened in our life by adding Kenny, and yet when looking at it from a distance I can see it has been but a blip on our radar. By that I mean that the balance of our family was not horribly disturbed, that the "feel" of our family was not changed a whit. Sure, we are struggling with some things as I have shared with you all, but none of it is at all insurmountable or overly "life wrecking". We have peace and happiness at home almost all the time, we share jokes and laugh and goof around and none of that has changed. You would think that doing something as drastic as this would have totally upset the apple cart, changing the entire dynamic of our family unit, and yet it hasn't. I have no explanation for it, or for so many other things that have surrounded this adoption other than to lift my eyes upward and thank God for all of it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a preachy, self-rightous, pious type. I am not at all formal in the practice of my faith, and I have a very down-to-earth relationship with God. He is in my life daily in very practical ways, and I talk to him about stupid, insipid things that I can probably see His eyes rolling over :-) I guess I can just see God in all of this and it has been a very profound experience for me, a very faith-affirming time in my life. There are moments when I have asked why we have been a part of this, especially since I have not lived the perfect life nor have I done anything wonderful to deserve being selected to witness Him so powerfully in action. There have been times of doubt and moments of complete utter disbelief in my 41 years. I received an email today from someone commenting on Kenny's friends being adopted, how much prayer went into this from others and how now the rewards are finally being seen. I realized that God used us and dozens of other very imperfect, very real people, to fulfill His wishes. I also saw quite clearly that if He waited until all of us were perfect to be used by God, then by golly none of us would ever be used! I think I was struck by a moment of real self-discovery today that God wants to use all of us and can use all of us for amazing things, and we don't have to be perfect...the only real requirement is we need to be willing.

I remember quite vividly one evening about 4 months after Matthew came home standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom, staring back at myself but not really seeing me at all. I was very intent on the thought of having more children, and yet had no idea how to make that happen financially. I knew after parenting for even such a short period of time that I felt very much made to do this, even in my own imperfect way, and in one of those very intense moments I told God that I knew He was laying something on my heart, but I wasn't sure at all how it would happen...but I promised him right there and then that I would gladly and eagerly take on the job of mothering any children he brought into my life who would need it, that I was His to use and if He had a plan for us to adopt more kids, then I would totally turn it over to Him to figure out the "how" of making it happen and I would provide the loving labor. I think that was the first time I really understood what it meant to surrender one's self. I felt it happen, I offered myself up and in no way making a bargain simply let Him know that I was here and would do as He led.

As I sit here and re-read this, it all sounds so "churchy" and that is actually so NOT me. But I don't think you can go through something like this and not be utterly and completely changed. I watch the light that is Joshua and know where we started from, and know we might not have made it...and I see God's mercy and goodness. I watch Kenny and I see the courage provided by God's strength coming through. I sit back and observe Matthew from afar and I see God's grace shining through in his easy acceptance of two challenging circumstances with the addition of his brothers to our family, one even usurping his role as the eldest. I also see God speaks to me daily in a million different ways, and I guess I finally got to the point where I wanted to acknowledge that and not ignore it. I finally wised up and realized that I am not smart enough to totally run my own life, as I made some big mistakes and used poor judgment at times all because I elected to turn my back and ignore those messages that were coming through from Him.

So, here I go again, rambling on about nothing in particular, just wandering mentally from one idea to the next. We'll see how tomorrow goes at school, and I can better judge what Kenny's behavior is like and how much discipline needs to come into play...and I might find myself enrolled in Olathe Elementary School myself if he doesn't start settling down! Hahahaha!


Kim said...

sounds like you are on top of this one. i think it is a great idea for you to go to school with him and try to help him through this tough adjustment and understand what is expected of him.

i did shudder a bit when i read the part where you said you have told him he is "never to tell an adult no". there are, unfortunately, situations in this world of ours where a child should know that it is ok to tell an adult "no". kenny is probably never alone with any adults but you and your husband now, but as he grows older and does start to have activities where you are not around, please make sure you instill in him that SOMETIMES a child has every right to tell an adult "no".

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you La Joys for the time you shared with me last night. When Joshie ran and jumped in my arms squeeling, "Miss Joan is here!" it touched my heart at it's deepest point. It is something I don't necessarily expect because, after all, my work with you and others is not about me. Yet, I feel so blessed, and a bit guilty, to have the benefit of feeling part of your family and feeling loved by your precious children, as I have easily grown to love them. As we sat in the restaurant it was simply amazing to see the cohesive, secure, comfortable and loving way your family interacts. Your boys are so genuine and show such character at their young ages. That speaks highly of your parenting and your consistent love, commitment and direction. They are well behaved, not without the typical need for redirection, and respectfully responsive to you. I wish all parents (not to suggest that there aren't other wonderful families out there, because there are!) could spend time with your family and see how well you all work together. Kenny's integration into the family is amazing as I even forget that he is a "new" member. He is happy to be a LaJoy, it is clear. Matthew, as he chowed down on the cabbage salsa, quietly projects a peaceful, thoughtful and genuinely kind spirit. Joshie, giving his stuffed doggie a ride in the chip basket, shows that his cute sense of humor is developing toward the likes of his father's sarcastic quality. And the love, respect and fun shared between you and Dominick is something anyone would envy. You are so "yourselves" and, with no "churchy" push, emit a sense of faith that is contagious and inspiring. So,know that what I have offered your family is small comparison to what your family has given me in return. Love you all lots and look forward to the next time we get together! Joan

LaJoy Family said...

I totally agree with you Kim, and soon when language is at the level where we can really explain that, we will definitely discuss that...and practice yelling to get attention. However, I have had reports from 3 different teachers this week plus frustrating experiences at home where he is saying "No" to adults, and at the moment it is more important in my mind to establish adult authority. Kids like Kenny who often handled the younger kids at the orphanage and who are trying to establish the limits in their new life are often busy telling others what to do and how to do it, and declining to do what is asked of them because they really HAVE been the boss a lot in their lives! hahaha! Kenny has perfected this to a fine art :-) He doesn't yet have the discernment and life experiences (let alone language skills) to be able to understand "It's ok to say no in this case...but not in this case..", and actually I am having to remind myself every day that in a mere 3 months I simply can not fill him up with all the information, directives, instructions and rules that it has taken Matthew 8 years to learn. And he really does not understand subtleties yet. Once he is a few more months down the road, and we see cooperation with adults...which I am sure we will...then we will sit down and have the whole stranger talk.

One thing that is interesting that I found is really, really important is that you need to teach your kids, who have been taught for years to be respectful, that it is not only ok to say no when someone is doing something they shouldn't, but you have to practice it!! They may very well know a stranger shouldn't touch them but mere habit keeps them from yelling out for help. I found with my Cub Scouts that many of them had never thought much about it and we practiced a couple of meetings yelling out if someone touches you, that there are definitely times that "no" should be said loud and clear and reminded them that it would feel very strange yelling at an adult but that it was ok in those circumstances.

I am always trying to figure out what should come first with Kenny, so much has been skipped over and there are a million things we need to go back and visit that the boys already know about. And what order do I do it in? What is the most important and what comes next? You brought up a very valid point and it outlines the very struggles we are having on a day to day basis when trying to navigate this journey. Thanks for the terrific comment!

Anonymous said...

i was going to say you are one awesome women...but rather...GOD has made you one awesome women...all glory to HIM