Yesterday a circumstance arose which I really didn't know how best to handle. I am still mulling it over in my mind as I write this and wish I felt more confident about it. I haven't even yet had the time to tell Dominick what happened as our schedules have conflicted the past couple of days and we have both been on the run.
The boys were at TaeKwonDo class in the afternoon, and there are only 8 students total in the class right now. Kenny was paired up with a little boy who has been a challenge for the teacher from the beginning with his behavior...he doesn't remain on task, always interrupts as he seems to need to be the center of attention, etc. Well, this little boy is supposed to grab on to Kenny's wrist as they learn a new technique to escape their partner's grasp. Kenny ended up being grabbed quite hard and asked several times for this boy to stop it. The teacher made it clear this is for practice and they should hold firmly but not too tight. As usual, it was not a surprise that this boy took it too far.
But that was not the problem. I looked away for a moment and the next thing I notice when I glance back is that this little boy is doing an incredible exaggeration of Asian eyes, trying to get his to be as slanted as possible and is pushing his face close to Kenny's. No other parent was present, and the teacher did not notice this. It went on for a good 3 or 4 minutes as he kept saying "Hey!" and then making the face.
And there I sat, not quite sure what to do. I took stock of the situation and realized Kenny had no idea what this boy was meaning by making that face, and Josh and Matthew in the same class were occupied and did not see it at all. Kenny seems quite oblivious most of the time to the fact that his parents and he are of different races. He doesn't really identify with "Caucasian" or "Asian" yet, and I think that perhaps developmentally he just isn't at a place where he sees that. His concerns run 100% towards his cleft lip and his perception of its unattractiveness.
I was waiting to see if the teacher would catch it when the boy finally stopped and moved on to some other annoying behavior. Kenny seemed no worse for the wear, and later when we got in the car and I brought it up from a sort of oblique direction it was clear to me that he had not taken offense, that he thought the boy was just not well behaved but had not at all internalized what had happened.
I was left pondering this one all day today. Should I have stepped in and stopped class to say something? Did I do the right thing in letting it go? I am not at all sure. I took the position at the moment that I would be drawing attention to something that I had a gut feeling was not being understood for what it was by Kenny in the first place, and that it would be better for me to remain quite and see if it escalated...which it didn't. But did I do all the boys a disservice by not making a stink over it? Should I have hopped up from where I was sitting and stormed up to that boy and made an issue of it? Was it a one time occurrence or will it happen again? And if so, what do I do then? Making a point of it is not going to change this little boy, as it is obvious from his behavior that there is something lacking in terms of discipline, so would going to the parent do any good at all?
Normally I would not hesitate to say something, to step in, but for some reason this felt like something I would be better off just letting slide and waiting to see if it becomes a problem again in the future.
So why do I feel like I failed on this one?
On another, happier not, today I made a little leap. I may not yet be ready to allow myself to work on getting a bedroom together with frills and lace, or to set out to buy much in the way of much needed clothing or "girlie" toys, but I did spend some time at Target early this afternoon selecting 2 photo albums and a couple of sets of stickers. I think it is time to take a baby step and start putting together "New Life" albums to send over to the girls to show them what their new life will be like. We did this for Kenny and discovered it was a much beloved item so I want to do it again and include photos of our family, home, school, church, friends, etc. I am not sure when I am going to start it, as I need to print out a bunch of photos and take a few more, and at the moment I happen to have at least 5 or 6 projects on my plate that need immediate attention. But one of these mornings after returning from dropping the boys off from school, I might spread out on the kitchen table and begin putting a dream together encased in a couple of photo albums. This feels a bit scary, I don't mind admitting, like I might "jinx" something by moving forward. It's definitely a part of the bonding process with an older child adoption, and one that most people don't understand is a bit of a stretch as it pushes us a little closer to feeling like we are "nesting" and preparing for a new addition to arrive. I guess I am taking tentative nesting steps and not quite ready to really fluff my feathers just yet.
I also am not very creative at this sort of thing and I have not a single girlie item such as paper or anything to begin with other than what I bought today. But part of what is also holding me up is how in the world can I convey to them in a limited space and with few words just what their new life will really be like, how much I personally already feel for them...how firmly I feel I am their mom, and that they will really be safe with us. I guess what I am having a hard time expressing even here is how do you say "I love you" in a meaningful way, how do you encourage them to hang on to hope, how can you cast away fears that must be co-mingled with excitement. I know most of you think I never lack for words (especially those few readers who know me in real life and are laughing as they read this knowing I NEVER shut up!), and indeed sometimes the words flow easily. Then there are other times when you try so hard to express what is in your heart and it is just too closely guarded to let it out.
It seems there are lots of deep, meaningful, challenging discussions going on in my life right now, both internal and external. Working with the older youth of our church I am trying to find ways to reach them and have no skill at this whatsoever, and yet it matters to me deeply. I see them yearning to come to a better understanding of God in their lives and I am ill-equipped to help them on that road, and yet here I am in that role. Daily I find myself in unusual, thought provoking conversations with the boys which leave me baffled and often with more questions myself than I feel like I have ever answered for them. At school and with Scouts I find myself torn at moments as I try to come up with creative ways to help kids see things in a new light, and yet I am not a teacher and often walk away disappointed in myself. In the virtual world I am frequently involved in long, continuing email conversations about adoption issues, fears and concerns. Often lately I step back and look at my life and wonder how in the world I end up in some of the situations I seem to be led to, as if I am supposed to have answers when really all I have are more questions that at any other point in my life.
It is hard to just be still. It is a skill I have yet to master and one that right now I desperately need. I am so profoundly grateful for a couple of people in my life who listen to me spew, who are my sounding boards, who don't look at me like I am nuts when a conversation goes off in half a dozen different directions in 10 minutes, as they understand that my life right now is about more than just multi-tasking, it is about somehow trying to figure it all out myself, about who I am, what my role really is in the various places I am involved. Not to be overly melodramatic or anything, but at moments right now my life feels as if I am swirling around in a hurricane and have not yet landed or been implanted in the side of a barn!
Maybe when I do eventually land, it will be very obvious why the hurricane picked me up and carried me the direction it did in the first place!