Today did not go as expected...I think we are used to that here! We were supposed to go out this afternoon with the girls to go shopping for a little party for their family group, but Irina was unavoidably detained and so we did not get to do that. Instead, at 9:30 tonight we had a wonderful little surprise when our neighbors from 2 floors above us came to visit! What a wonderful young couple they are...we could visit with them for hours and Dominick and I said over and over after they left how we regretted not meeting them sooner, as it would have made our time here that much more special.
They are a very young Kazakh couple who both speak English and have an absolutely beautiful 4 month old little boy. Yerlan and Arman are very kind and have each been to America. They are both language teachers and since we have but only 1 day left we are planning to visit again tomorrow evening and they have offered to help us if we need help tomorrow translating for the girls in the evening. Oh how I wish we had met them sooner!!! I will be kicking myself for months over that one, a real lost opportunity for friendship. They did, however, give us their email addresses and their phone numbers and I am hoping that long distance we can form a friendship and maybe see them sometime if they come to America again, which they hope to do. We immediately set about talking about many things...family values, adoption, America, cultural differences. We could have talked half the night but their little guy had to get to bed so we bid each other good night and promised to visit tomorrow one last time.
It was then, after we all settled in for the night and the boys were tucked in bed that Kenny came out into the kitchen and said "Mommy...I need to talk to you." and led me back to the darkened living room where we sat on a couch and he started trying to speak and he got choked up and started to cry. He said he was feeling very nervous and scared about tomorrow, and that he didn't know how to feel better. Kenny is my child who is most easily able to articulate his feelings and to do so surprisingly well for a child who 2 1/2 years ago had no English language skills. He is deep on many levels, very in tune with what he is feeling and he and I can "go there" when others can not.
I asked him what was bothering him the most and he said "I am scared our family will change, that we won't have the love we have now. I finally got to be loved and I am afraid it will be ruined if the girls don't fit in."
"Are you afraid we won't have enough love to go around?" I asked.
"No, we always have that. I am really, really scared things will be bad, and they will have a hard time in a family and we will all be unhappy." Kenny replied through his tears. He then added "We have a family with a lot of love and a lot of peace, we are happy all the time and I have only had it for 2 years and I don't want to lose it."
"Kenny, our family WILL be different, and I'll be honest with you, I am nervous and feeling scared inside too...things COULD be bad for awhile, or even for a long time! Bringing 2 strangers into your family is never easy. It sometimes looks that way to others who are not living in the family, because they see only the happy faces, but it is hard work and takes a long time for everyone to feel settled and comfortable."
I then went on to point out "How do you think Josh and Matthew felt...how we ALL felt when we added you to our family? It was just as scary, believe me! And it has not always been easy...all of us have struggled sometimes as you have learned some hard lessons. But you belong with us and none of us can imagine not having you in our life."
We talked for awhile, reminiscing about the struggles with behavior we have had and sometimes still DO have with him, about how he still needs to feel in control, how he sometimes doesn't tell the truth, etc. I asked him if he thought he had "wrecked" our family. And he was brought up short for a moment and said "No, you love me anyway!" and I said "Yes, and love is not always easy...but God doesn't call us to do the easy thing, God calls us to open our arms and love everyone and sometimes that can be hard. But just because something is hard doesn't mean we don't do it."
He started softly crying again as he said "But I have the BEST family in the whole world!! I don't want us to not be happy! I don't know anyone who has a family like mine, we are always happy and joyful and I want it to stay that way. I am afraid we will lose being happy!"
I held him there, in the dark, surrounded by Matthew, Joshua and Dominick who had all joined us. We all shared about our feelings. Surprisingly, the one whom I think we all would expect to be most affected is the most confident! Joshua is feeling A-OK about it all, very happy and not at all worried. He has already been so nurtured by the girls that he feels very safe with them joining us, and for this I am very, very grateful. They are exceedingly tender and protective of him.
Matthew spoke a little and said he too is nervous but he added "I am less nervous because I have already been through this a couple times, and it turns out all right even if it takes awhile. It's ALWAYS hard at first and Kenny you were hard at first too!"
I told Kenny "I am not going to promise we won't have hard times as I know we will. But 5 of us are strong, we have a 6th person with us too and that is God. As long as we continue to keep God in the middle of all of us, and we continue to keep our love strong, nothing will break our family. If I were by myself there is no way I could do it, but I have all of you to help us! You are going to help in the single most important way, by setting an example of what children in our family behave like...that is more powerful than anything we could ever say to the girls."
Kenny then said "I am afraid because of the girl's other mom that they might be mean to you and say bad things, that they will hurt your feelings and make you cry." then he cried again "I love you and don't want you to be hurt!"
Of course tears came as I sat next to this tiny little guy whose love is so powerful, whose spirit is so open and giving he almost brings sunshine wherever he goes.
"You know, that might happen! They have a lot of anger over what their other mom did and how they weren't loved...and they might have to take it out on the one person who has been by their side and stuck with them all this time, and that is me. And I might cry, and my feelings might get hurt. But I have cried at one time or another over all of you kids, Kenny. I love you SO MUCH that there are moments you have struggled and I want it to be easier for you, and I cry. I cried a LOT over Josh and his hurting heart, and there were times he was pretty awful! But real mom's don't give up when their kids are hurting. Real parents stick with it. And I have an entire team behind me to help me stick with it! If the girls do act up or are mean to me, you can help so much by coming up, giving me a hug and telling me to hang in there and reminding me I am a good mom. You can support me when it gets hard so I can feel better! We also have Ms. Joan who really knows what she is doing, and lots of really loving and caring friends who mommy can go to when I feel sad. It is important to reach out to others like you did tonight when you feel scared or sad. Somehow, God uses others to reach out to us to make it all seem a little easier when we share what is going on."
I then told him the story of one night when it was just awful going through it all with Josh and I was crying and feeling like the world's worst failure, and Matthew who was 5 drew me a picture with a stick boy and rainbow on it and the words "I love you Mommy!" on it. It was his 5 year old way of saying "Hang in there, you are a good Mommy!" and it meant everything to me.
I said "Besides, do Mommy and Daddy look like pushovers? Do we strike you as the kind who will not keep control in our home? Are we strict and firm? Do you trust us to take good care of you? And the only way love can leave our home is if we all decide not to act lovingly. It us up to us ALL to create the kind of family we want to live in!".
We then talked about the power of positive peer pressure, and how the girls have already shown they want to fit it, so the boys would be doing some "parenting" of their own by not encouraging poor behavior and by letting the girls know gently when they acted in some unacceptable way.
But then I reminded him of all the good things we have seen...the kindness, the sharing, the playfulness, the helping attitude...and explained that sometimes it is easy to get bogged down thinking of all the "what if's" that were bad instead of the "what if's" that were good! We talked about imagining them all playing on the trampoline this summer, or going camping or having story telling sleepovers on mom and dad's bedroom floor.
We talked about what the word "risk" means, and how people who take no risks and only live for safety also lose out on a lot. I explained that adopting any one of them had been a risk, that many people would never do it because they felt the risk was too great, but that we LaJoy's are risk takers when we feel led by God to do something. He asked if we felt called by God to adopt him, and I said "Of course, or we would not have done it!'
I then said "You have a unique chance here Kenny to help the girls feel all that you now feel about our family, You can "pay it forward" by being patient and supportive of them, just like Matthew and Joshua were with you!"
We talked a lot longer, with him finally coming to sleep beside me as I type this, and Dominick is asleep on the couch so Kenny can feel safer tonight.
Of course, I go to sleep tonight (or perhaps not, it is only 1:30 AM) with my own excitement and fears to face. It is like the first day of school amped up a lot. There is a LOT to be concerned about, and a lot to rejoice over as well. Tomorrow is forever, tomorrow it is all in our lap, for better or worse. I think it will be "for better" but I am realistic enough to know we may have to go through some "for worse" to get there. Or as Matthew, my eternal optimist said tonight "It could be super easy too! We don't know what will happen, it doesn't mean it has to be bad!".
What a gift it was tonight though, these tears of my son's. Tears shed at the thought of his mommy's feelings being hurt. Tears shed in fear of losing the family he has come to adore being a part of. Tears shed as he contemplates life without a peaceful, loving home.
Team LaJoy will get us through whatever is ahead. I'd rather have these guys on my side than just about anyone else in the whole world.
It is the eve of our family changing. Tomorrow, we begin anew.