Friday, August 28, 2009

Tenderized Hearts

Have you ever turned to look at one of your children and suddenly seen an entirely new person there? The past couple of weeks that has happened more than once for me with Matthew. At church during our "passing of the peace" I turned to the person behind me and it was Matthew and I was literally startled at how he has changed. He is growing more into his "man body", he is sturdy, broad shouldered, taller and to my mommy eye grows ever more handsome with each passing day.

He is dipping his foot in the pool of pre-adolescence and it is such a treat to watch him. While camping with our friends, he went on a 2+ hour bike ride where they must have ridden several miles and he came back exhausted yet feeling quite accomplished. The other day we stopped on our way home at a gas station and Josh had to use the restroom. I won't let the boys go in alone, so Matt offered to take him. As I watched them walk away Matthew had his arm draped over Joshie's shoulder in a fatherly fashion, and it felt almost as if I was watching him a few years down the road with his own son. I know he is still only a 10 year old little boy, but particularly with Matthew there has always been something a little older about him.

Their childhoods go by so quickly, don't they?

No news on the adoption front, anxiously awaiting "the call" and feeling an underlying urgency to get things done around the house. Nesting has set in, I fear, and poor Dominick has his "Honey Do" list. It was hilarious to hear him as he lectured the boys on Mommy's nesting the other day, telling them that they were now old enough to pitch in and help with the preparations for their sisters' arrival. They each got a big kick out of asking what big nesting project signalled their arrivals into our family. With Matthew it was scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush at 2:00 AM, with Joshie we took down every blind in the house and took them to be ultrasonically cleaned, and Kenny was the biggie with our TV room being transformed and putting in our tile and Pergo floors. They asked what big project we were doing this time around and we replied that the girls' bedroom has to be done and tons of little things needed to be fixed up or touched up. They volunteered to once again touch up our exterior paint where the snow settles against it on our patio and garage and every year needs to be redone...and they want to tackle sanding and urethaning a wooden bench on our front porch after doing so well with their wagon.

For Mommy, it is more mental preparation than anything else. Oh, of course there are cupboards to be cleaned, closets to be emptied (and filled!), but it is the nesting that goes on in my head which is the most important. There is so much to consider and think about...reminding myself of key Russian words and phrases, anticipating what they will most need to know about our family life and our special family culture so we can have an interpreter explain it to them, planning for educational issues.

Most important though is allowing myself to be vulnerable. Why? Because in that vulnerability lies the key to their attachment. If I can be strong, yet vulnerable, then my own walls are deconstructed and they can see my heart for what it is. If my own walls are up, if I can't help them feel we are all in this together and it is new and sometimes scary territory for us all, then I become distanced from their own experience and will not be sensitive to the effects of this tremendous transition. this may sound totally strange to almost everyone, but it is something that has worked for me each and every time, and in fact I think in some ways it was the single most effective thing to help Joshie. You just can not be afraid to bare your soul to your children, and yes, they will stomp on it sometimes, but that "soul nakedness" is really at the heart of every terrific relationship and if you start off that way it is far easier than to try and "go there" later after patterns are established.

I remember sitting with Kenny on my lap many a time, after we had gone through a rough afternoon with control issues and had settled down a bit. We talked in hushed tones about how hard this was on both of us...and I still remember the surprised look on his face when he realized that this was difficult for me too. We talked about how angry we could be with one another, and yet how much we still cared for one another. I explained and reasoned with him about why we had certain rules, I tried to give him a visual picture of what his life would be as an adult if he didn't learn to be a little boy rather than the too-young-man-in-charge.

I recall the time when Joshie was about 2 1/2 and I cried with him, each of us hurting over what had broken his heart and being unable to mend it easily. And in that moment, we came that much closer to healing our relationship.

This morning on the drive to school we talked about the girls, and how with each one of our children I found myself in tears at one time or another pre-adoption as I realized how much they had grown from referral time to travel much we had missed in their lives and how I had wished we could have been together sooner somehow. I felt Matthew's hand on my arm and a gentle little squeeze as he said "But it all works out the way God wants it to, doesn't it Mommy? We are all together and soon we will REALLY all be together! And then they won't be growing up without you.". Kenny asked from the back seat "Did you cry over me growing up Mommy?" and I said "Of course I did! I missed 8 1/2 years with you and even though God's timing is perfect, sometimes we have to let go of those feelings to grab hold of the new ones." and I saw his furrowed brow in the rear view mirror as he contemplated that one.

I have felt emotionally numb about a lot of this the past few months, as I had to distance myself from the never-ending process in order to make it through. Now, little by little, I feel myself reawakening gradually to hope and promise. And in the midst of that reawakening I have to steel myself for the challenges that most definitely lay ahead, for it will most assuredly not be all sweetness and light. It can be hard work to be your child's 24 hour a day interpreter for a new language and culture, to anticipate their unasked questions, and to try to help them open up emotionally. In fact, as I look back on it, I would say it is the most exhausting job I have ever had. As I shared with someone yesterday, on the outside people see our little family walking around and they marvel at Kenny's language acquisition or his understanding of things so early on in his new American life and they don't see the day to day unusual issues we have to tackle with regards to race, culture, adoption, attachment, etc. They see the end product, and thankfully thus far it has been pretty decent...but they don't see all that it took to get there. Maybe that is a good thing as those who walk into this might be too daunted to try it if they knew what a big job it really is! hahaha!

So we begin the next stage, gradually getting things done around the house, gently tenderizing hearts and marinating them so they will be just perfect by the time they are set on the fire. There are tears shed as stresses mount and anticipation becomes is a special time that can not really be easily compared to the pregnancy experience.


Maureen said...

"Most important though is allowing myself to be vulnerable."

Wow!! How very right you are! This is something I have never been very good at, but I've had to do that with my son. It has been difficult to let him know how much he hurts me sometimes, but you are so right that it is so necessary.

Your girls are so lucky to have you. You may think you over analyze everything, but I think all that analyzing helps you hit the nail on the head.

Dee said...

I am so glad to read that you are staying busy and being positive! I know hard it can be, even with the boys to keep you hopping! I cannot wait to see how the girls' room looks! My little girl is too grown up now...

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

I guess we just have to focus on the time we DO have left with them!!
ATTENTION anyone reading this-Peggy and I are planning a long-distance "baby" shower. It will be a bit unique....please contact me at and I will explain!!

Calico Sky said...

What a beautiful post! The photographs remind me of my local park in England!