It is snowing and overcast here, and a light breeze is lifting the snowflakes into swirling tornadoes where our kitchen window looks out upon the L shaped corner where our apartment building abuts the next building. It is darker than usual at 10:15 AM and although there are people coming and going around here, going about their business, it is very quiet and remarkably still...the falling snow serves as a buffer of sorts between the harsh outside world and our warm little life here inside apartment #2.
I have been talking on and off with Dominick over the computer via email and IM as he works to get everything done back home and struggles with yet more paperwork. I think Kenny put it will yesterday when we were talking about missing Dominick and he said "Mommy...you are the softness and Daddy's the laughter". That kid always gets me with the things he says.
Many people have wondered why we have brought our kids along each time, why it would be important, and why we would pull them out of school this long to travel. We were so blessed that our adoption angels offered to have the boys travel with us, as they knew that is always the way we had done it in the past and understood Joshie's attachment issues and the seriousness of the consequences of leaving him behind.
Sure it would be easier...in some ways...for Dominick and I to travel alone. Believe me, I'd love to travel with just a couple of suitcases and be able to move quickly throughout airport terminals and shopping in bazaars.
But then there are moments like last night, when you realize just how much each of our children has to process and how incredibly valuable this experience is for them all.
While Dominick is gone, each of the boys gets a night to sleep with me, and this leads to some funny and sometimes touching "alone time" conversations. Last night it was Josh's turn, and almost before the lights were out he brought up his birth mom. Being here has triggered a lot of things for him to think about.
Josh started the conversation with "I wish we could go to my city and find my first mom."
I said "I wish we could too...I wonder what you would tell her when you saw her?".
He got quiet for a minute and then said "I would tell her that I understand and it is OK...I wouldn't want her to be sad all her life because she had to give me away.".
I responded "That would be nice. There are times when I have wanted to let each of your birth moms know that you are all safe and doing so well, to give them pictures and show them what handsome boys you are and to tell them that you are happy and well loved.".
"Mommy, I know there are lots of reasons she might not have kept me. Maybe she didn't have enough money, maybe she wasn't married and her boyfriend left her, maybe she didn't know how to be a good mommy like you, and maybe she just didn't want a baby at all! Or maybe she was using drugs or something."
I said "Yes, those are all possibilities. But let's think of what we DO know. She loved you enough to have you and many women here get rid of babies in their tummies before they are born. She loved you enough to try and keep you since you were about a month old when they found you. Maybe she wanted to keep you very badly and just couldn't."
A very long quiet pause...
"Mommy...I am glad she couldn't keep me, because otherwise I wouldn't have you, or Daddy, or Matthew, or Kenny or my new sisters! I would still be living here and I wouldn't have anyone I love!".
I explained "Yes you would, you would love your Mommy and Daddy here, and maybe have brothers or sisters too that you would love."
Loyalty won out when he said with a grin "But I would NEVER love them as much as I love you...all the way to the moon and back!"
We lay there in the semi-dark, light filtering in from the hallway as we hear Matthew and Kenny softly giggling in the living room where they were having their own little conversation.
Then Joshie asked "Do you think my mommy was like the girls' mommy and did bad things?".
"Maybe Josh, and maybe not. Most people are good, and not all the kids come to the orphanages because their parents did bad things. Sometimes they just can't afford to feed their kids and it is a way of caring for them too. I don't want to guess that your mommy did bad things. And we know you weren't taken away by the police because she did something wrong, so I don't think so. But I don't think she was perfect, no more than I am...we are just mommies...just doing the best we can and making mistakes sometimes too."
"Do you think we will ever find her someday or that she will find me?" Josh asked.
"No honey, I don't think so. I wish we could but I don't think anyone has enough information to be able to find us or for us to find her. I wish we could but I don't think it is possible."
"Good." He said.
One minute wanting to find her, the next not wanting his safe world uprooted. Such conflicting emotions about everything...and anyone would dare wonder why Angela had a hard time deciding to go with us. I don't.
Kenny has not remembered a lick of Russian, he is truly clueless, it is not an act. He has not talked much at all about his prior life while here, I wonder if he will eventually. He has pointed out a few things in the shops that he remembered getting once or twice as a treat, and it is obvious from what the girls have shared that the standard in their orphanage is still far better than what Kenny had in Kyrgyzstan. They have a diet consisting of regular fruits and vegetables, but very little meat or protein. They shower once a week. They were the same clothing over and over again, but it is decent clothing.
But the most important detail they all missed out on was love. The love of a committed parent or parents, the interest of someone who cares deeply about your successes and failures, who will work with you daily and "ride you" when you are slacking and cheer you when you have achieved something. They missed out on thousands of hugs and "I love you's", millions of grins across the table and many, many birthdays that were remembered. Kenny never even understood he got a year older on a specific day each year!
Matthew is coming at this all from a very different place, being our most stable in terms of his understanding of his adoption. Thus far (notice I am not claiming we won't have issues down the road) he has asserted his pride in his heritage by insisting on Kazakhstan underwear and combing the stores for items of interest. He has done what I would most expect of my bookworm, reading about Ghengis Khan and Russia and the Cossacks and the history of this area. He has also declared "When I am a grown up I want to come and live in Petropavlovsk!" and I asked him why, and he replied "Because I LOVE Kazakhstan and I like the cold!" and then we proceeded to talk about the logistics and what he would need to do to live here, and that he would have to learn Russian. That brought him up short as he wants to learn German and go to Germany someday and fly for Lufthansa...hahaha! Then he said "Well, maybe I could do both!"...of course he could.
Would we have these conversations if we weren't here? Surely we would, but they would be different, less rooted in a true understanding of the culture and circumstances of the average Kazakhstani. Seeing pictures is NOT the same as walking into an orphanage years after being adopted from one and seeing what your life might have been like. Hearing stories is NOT the same as walking down the street here, living in an apartment and shopping at your corner market. And even with all of this it STILL isn't really enough to help our kids understand the whys and hows of what their life might have looked life, both if they had remained in their birth families or if they had remained behind in an orphanage. But it is the best we can do, we have tried to offer them all that was possible for us to offer in terms of tools to use to process it all.
I can tell we are not through with Joshua and his sorting all of this out. But he is finally speaking from a position of strength when he talks of his former life, he is seeing things from a place of the heart and not from anger or as much loss.
I too have changed and grown a lot over the past 6 months, particularly. I don't know whether it was taking the leap in homeschooling, if it was jumping into the deep end with the girls, or what. But I think, I have finally figured out what and who I am, and I will say it without feeling as if I am somehow "less than" my counterparts who might be better educated or have good, solid jobs with benefits and get to dress up every day.
I am a professional mom.
I do my job to the best of my ability and take great pride in it. I don't have this need anymore to feel like I should be finding a career of some sort, or that I have left out something from my life that I should be working towards. This IS what I should be doing, this is what God has called me to do, and all of my life experiences have fed the knowledge base I have built to care for these specific kids. It doesn't have a paycheck attached...unless one wants to count the money not spent on day care, lawyers for delinquency, or additional therapists (note: Additional...hahaha! I KNOW we will be in therapy down the road!). I am not "just a housewife". I am a wife and mother who loves completely and dresses the part...jeans, sneakers and t-shirts ARE ok!! And somewhere along the line recently, I "got it". No one could do MY job with MY kids any better than I do. Sure they can parent their kids better than I could, but I am an expert on Matthew, Kenny, Joshua and soon Angela and Olesya. I will know their needs and quirks better than anyone else. I know that is not the same as analyzing complex data for the next Board Meeting. The fact is, what I do is HARDER and there is MUCH MORE to analyze.
So God is using this journey in a lot of ways, internally, for all of us. Over the next month I am sure we will experience the gamut of emotions, we will each take from it what we need and use it to help us as we try to understand who we are individually, and who we are as a family.
We will all return home just a little bit different.