Monday, June 16, 2008

Camping and Fathers Among Us

Father's Day has come and gone, and it was a relaxing, wonderful day for Dominick. We enjoyed our first camping trip of the season very much even though we had a few trailer issues to work out with hoses, etc. which required a trip or two back to town. But we are now all set up and ready to enjoy many summers of fun with it. We were so happy we made the switch (and not just because we got an incredible bargain!) as we had a lot more room. Our old popup was the smallest they had two double beds and an 8' box and this one feels like a mansion in comparison...we even have room for real pots and pans in it! I am certain it will get tons of use and will be the last "step up" for camping while the kids are with it had better last!

We were in a campground that was sort of downtown in this small little community which is nestled in a narrow canyon, and our terrific private campground had the river running right beside our campsite and it abutted the high canyon walls on the other side. It was perfect, just beautiful...and definitely a place we will return to. A bigger plus is that it is only about an hour away from home, which for us on the Western Slope of Colorado is a mere hop, skip and a jump from home but I know to others may seem quite far.

We spent the weekend in the Hot Springs Pool where they have a water slide that the boys adored...Matthew must have gone down it at least 60 times. Kenny made huge leaps in his swimming skills and is now really close to swimming for real...quite a contrast from last year at church camp when he loudly proclaimed he could swim...and then promptly proceeded to sink to the bottom as mom let him learn a lesson the hard way. It was probably the best thing I could do in a safe environment as my overconfident kiddo had a far greater respect for water afterwards and a driving desire to learn to swim.

We also came back into town to see a children's production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" which was a first for our family and the best inexpensive entertainment we have had as a family in years. It cost a grand total of $15 for all 5 of us and we enjoyed a very professionally acted play which was perfect in length at a little over an hour. We all agreed we were glad we took the time out of our camping trip to come back for it. Although I would never in a million years pretend that we are a "cultured" family, we have tried to expose the kids to the arts in various ways that they might enjoy by attending concerts, going to museums and comparing what kind of art we like and don't care much for, and the live plays. So far, all 3 of them seem to enjoy it very much with Matthew being the biggest surprise in his love of music of all kinds including classical, pop and jazz...and he now identifies the various styles he hears in music. He is a bit tone deaf, sadly, so I am not sure how successful he might be with music other than to enjoying it but we will try lessons of some sort or another soon with all of them and see where it takes us. I have a feeling Kenny will be our little musician as he seems to have a real gift for it as his music teacher also said.

Two encounters with others on our camping trip led to some interesting and laughter filled conversations. In our campground we met a couple from our town here in Colorado who lived in Simi Valley only a short distance from our old home in California! We spent over an hour yacking about the differences and how blessed we all are to have discovered Montrose and this entire area. It was really funny recall our first days in our version of Paradise here, where people actually always wave at you when you drive by regardless of whether they know you or not, where you don't have to bristle up if a group of teenagers walk behind you in the dark and where they are more likely to say "Excuse me Ma'am" versus saying 4-Letter cuss words, and where the favorite phrases around here more closely mimic Larry the Cable Guy than they do the infamous Valley Girl...a language which I am well acquainted with having grown up in SoCal.

At the pool we also ran into a family who have a daughter in Matthew's school and had a long chat with them...they are raising their granddaughter who is a lovely little girl and I was reminded that adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes.

Once again we struggled with Kenny's behavior after having a really good week last week. I sometimes get a bit down when he regresses over and over again about the same issues...9 times out of 10 it is about control and wanting to do what he wants and blatantly ignoring what we may have said quite literally less than 2 minutes ago. Dominick and I were talking about it, and we recognize that many people wouldn't see some of his antics as a problem at all...that we are fairly strict with the boys and have a certain level of behavior that we expect out of them and strive for in our parenting but that Kenny's little relapses might seem like nothing to some parents. However, maybe it is because of our experience with Josh that we see the control issues as very much bound into the bonding process. Some of it is just Kenny's strong personality, which I truly love about him, and some of it does appear to be attachment/accepting parenting related. It is a subtle difference, but often Kenny is still in the "I can take care of myself" mode rather than the "I have parents who can take care of me" mode. Having a 9 year old with whom you are trying to establish a firm parenting/authority role is that is just when they are beginning to spread their wings a little naturally and want more freedom. I give thanks every day though, that in spite of the struggles at moments they are really minimal and Kenny has a very strong understanding that even though he and Matthew are the same age, they really aren't. We are blessed that he really seems to grasp this and understands his own lack of life experience versus Matthew and there has thus far been no jealousy or anger over Matthew having privileges based upon that fact that Kenny does not yet have. He knows he is older chronologically but not in any other way and he looks to Matthew to be his guide in all of this, while interestingly Matthew turns to Kenny to be his social leader in terms of interaction with others as Matthew tends to be more reticent in public with others and keep more to himself due to shyness.

I also have to remind myself that we are still going through toddler things with Kenny, just in a much larger body. This weekend reminded me of how a toddler will purposely reach out to touch something, all the while staring you down to see if you REALLY meant it when you said not to touch it! Hahahaha! When I think of it like that, the humor in it all comes through but at the moment it is happening and you have that big 9 year old body in front of you all you can be is exasperated :-) But overall, it is that kind of thing that is going on, which really is very minor and not at all a big deal other than knowing you have to set really firm limits and mean it, just like with a toddler. Kenny ended up sitting outside the popup at the picnic table for 30 minutes while we played inside after testing our "no" a couple of times, and I am sure we have more ahead of us this week, which makes me hopeful that he will cycle back to the "listening" mode before I have to leave with him alone for our trip to Chicago to Shriner's Hospital. Traveling through large airports with a young child who thinks they know it all and won't always listen to you is not an experience I relish having.

On a more positive note, Joshie seems to have cycled out of his own nightmare/bedwetting phase, which has us relieved. We have noticed though that he is far more insecure in other ways, such as coming up to hug me (and really check to see if I am still there!) 15 times if we are out in public somewhere and he is playing, or coming all the way down the long hall and around the corner to the back of the house where our bedroom is to go to the bathroom at night versus using his own, just to see if I am there. One thing that seems to have helped is using Skype to talk to our friends who moved. We can see one another and yack, and it is like we are right there in person. It seems to have helped reassure Joshie in a way a phone call would never do. I wish we could take him with us on this visit so he could see them face to face, but we will try to do so before the summer is out. I have this gut feeling that he needs to go through such things a few times to really internalize the fact that just because a person moves or leaves, it doesn't mean they are abandoning you and the friendship can continue...that you WILL see them again. At 5 years old that is a harder concept to "get" as the permanency of a relationship often depends on "being there" for a young child. If, like Josh, they have already had someone walk away and they have never seen them again they tend to compare all experiences by the loss of the first one.

I know...I know....he was only 11 months old! How often I have heard that! But I am NOT saying he could put words to any of this, that he could describe his mom leaving him or even "knew" her in the way we imagine. For Josh, it seems to be magnified into this overwhelming sense of loss of something he can't describe and it relates to people not things. We often don't equate all the studies done about in-utero communication and experiences with children into adoption loss. Josh may have been with his birth mom a mere month or so, but he was also inside her for 9 months, he heard her voice, he felt her presence which suddenly was absent and never returned. For him...and not for all was a profound loss and one which we see exhibited day after day in numerous ways. It is also something I never could have imagined having such a long lasting impact.

But on from there, from mother's we turn to Father's and Father's Day. Just as we don't with Mother's Day we didn't make a big deal about the day...Dominick and I are both of the same mindset on that one that we don't feel Hallmark should mark our special days to make money, but that we ought to have that appreciation of each other in our family every day of the year! We never wait for a date on the calendar to talk about our appreciation of one another in our family...often out of the blue over the dinner table or in the car we will ask everyone "So what is it you like best about Kenny??" or "Name one thing Matthew is good at" and we all have to answer, and it includes the parents as well.
But on Father's Day this year I thought about the many father figures I have had in my life, starting of course with my own Dad. My Dad passed away when I was 25, and I count myself among the very lucky to have had such a loving and involved father. He worked 3 jobs often throughout my growing up years so my mom could remain home with us, and yet he still managed to squeeze in being a softball and baseball coach not only to us, but to hundreds of other kids long after we were no longer playing. Dad always pulled for the underdog and he would happily take the lower level teams of boys, teaching them the basics and helping them see their potential both on and off the field. Dad was my biggest fan, and he is who I try to be to all my three sons...their biggest cheerleader, the one who believes they are capable of doing anything they set their mind to. I married a man much like my own Dad, as girls often do. In my case, my husband is a true reflection of my Dad...a hard working man who loves his family dearly and isn't shy about showing it.

Dominick is a wonderful and involved father, a man who by necessity has to work very hard at a not-so-glamorous job washing cars but who never lets his job get in the way of family time. He takes time off to go on field trips at school, to be a Scout Leader, to be present at soccer games and Tae Kwon Do and music nights. He takes time to play with the boys and often is my 4th son! Hahahaha! He is the leader of joy and laughter in our home.

I have had other father figures in my life, who have set an example or reminded me what is good about men. I had a boss years ago in California who was a cheerleader of mine in a male dominated occupation, and I succeeded and had respect from others due to his prodding me to do more, to be more. I had a band teacher in Junior High who set a marvelous example of diligence and hard work, and all it could accomplish. I had German teacher in High School who unnerved me once by pulling me aside and asking me what was wrong, that he could tell I wasn't doing my best and was wondering what was going on...he unnerved me by showing he cared. I have a male best friend who is an awesome example of caring and compassion and well as enjoying having a good time. There are many men in our church who set fine examples of putting their faith into action, who are kind, thoughtful and caring men who touch our lives on a weekly basis. There are other men, men like John Wright who are at this very moment probably hugging a child who is fatherless, providing the basics for them in the best way he can, who are filling the need. I may have lost my Dad at an age far younger than I would have hoped, but God has placed other good men in my path to continue to guide me and influence me...and as in my husband's case, to love and cherish me. God always provides, doesn't He? We may choose to see what he has taken from us instead of what He has given us...but He always provides.

I look at my three sons, and I wonder...what kind of fathers will they be? Are we doing all we can to raise them to be real men who will stick by their children, raise them with love and devotion? Will they be good husbands who are committed to their wives? Time will tell if we have done the job given to us well, or if we have failed. If they are anything at all like the father provided to them by our Father, they will be the kind of man any mother would want their daughters to date!

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

I really enjoyed this post, and all its different aspects. The photos were great - what an awesome place to have so close by.

I did just wonder one thing, since when you have mentioned before Kenny's control issues it also seemed to be when you were away from home (at Disney I think). Is it possible that this is one of the triggers for Kenny: that he has anxiety about leaving the only home he has ever known, so feels the need to claw some control back? As you mention with Joshie, kids don't 'get' the concept of permanency so much (and I remember you mentioning when your school's exchange student left Kenny made a remark about being 'sent back'), so is it possible - even on a subconscious level - that he is not entirely certain he will return? Anyway - probably miles off base - but it was just a thought.