Friday, April 30, 2010

"Innocence Retained" or "Mermaids and Pirates"

You want to know why we feel it is imperative that Angela and Olesya are not enrolled in public school at this time? Do you want to see how different it is being 12 and 10 versus Kenny's 8 years old? Let me share some of our conversations yesterday, and perhaps it will be as obvious to you as it is to me...

Coming from Angela on the drive home from school yesterday afternoon:

" machina Kazakhstan?" and much to her surprise she learned that we could only fly there, and it was impossible to drive to Kazakhstan. Hmmm....something that by 12 years old most kids know, but maybe not for a few...we continue on...

While reading together last night a book with pirates in it, from Olesya:

"Mama, pirates America?". Well, no Olesya, pirates with peg legs and eye patches don't really exist today (I of course didn't go into the whole Somalia thing). I was then questioned for several minutes about when pirates lived, and with astonishment she finally believed me that there were no pirates like that today.

Later in that conversation, Angela asks:

"Mama...America...woman fish tail? Can we see aquarium?". While I was very happy to see she remembered the word "aquarium" from our visit to one in Astana, I was blown away to be asked in all sincerity if we could go see a real mermaid. At 12 years old, she doesn't understand that mermaids are a myth.

My children appear so wonderfully average, so normal on the outside...and they ARE...and yet their life experiences are decidedly NOT normal. Can you imagine that kind of innocence and naivete in a modern day public middle school? Can you imagine the utter confusion of modern life thrust at them with iPods, gangsta rap, making out and the one-upmanship in attire? My daughters still need to learn to discern between reality and fantasy, how could we possibly thrust them in that environment and expect them to discern whether pot is safe or not, or if a guy's advances are sincere or not? So sad to me that I would even have to say "guys advances" about CHILDREN who are 12 or 13 years old, but that is the way today's world works.

Maybe now our decision to homeschool them makes a little more sense to some. Not that we have to justify it, but there might be someone reading this blog considering adopting an older child from overseas who would have no idea what to expect with their soon-to-be child. Maybe all of these blog posts about our life post-adoption will help pre-adoptive parents understand a little bit better just all the deficits that their children come with.

And hopefully, I have done an equally good job highlighting their amazing resilience and internal resources.

However, to deny that our older adopted children come to us with a very different background than the children they will be interacting with does them a disservice. I have met many adoptive parents over the years who want to wipe the slate clean and pretend their lives started with them, that there was no history prior. Sorry, try as hard as you might, that is impossible. You are getting the whole child, not just the parts you prefer. Frankly, I prefer ALL our kids' parts...the trauma, the neglect, the sorrow, the grief...all of it, for it is how they were formed into the fantastic, triumphant kiddos I now parent. But it does bring challenges with it.

Like how to explain a mermaid is not real :-)


Anonymous said...

Be at peace, Friend. You have made the right decision. If we have a problem with it, it is our problem. However, the attitude that give me a child and I'll fix her/him is not. We gain such confidence in ourselves as adults that we think with some patience, love, and competancy we can soon set right what years of neglect or apathy or even violence have put wrong. It took me several months of volunteering with a mentoring program before I began to see that (1) a few months would not fix what years had put in place, (2) some things will never be the way I envision them, (3) my values are not necessarily the same as the child I am working with, (4) the teacher is not me, and (5)I am the student. I continue to learn lessons of sturdiness, survivorship, thriving under difficult circumstances, alternate value systems, and on and on from these children. Thank God that your children have you and Dom to help them move into better spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health, that you are there to help them see and experience the delights of this new life, to give them unconditional love. And, thank God that God has given you five remarkable teachers of your own that you may learn lessons you never even knew you had missed. And, finally, thank God that you are sharing with us so that we too are learning lessons that are never taught or learned in traditional classrooms.

Thank God and thank you,

Hilary Marquis said...

You are doing the perfect thing for your kids. Middle school is rough under the best of circumstances. They would be "eaten alive" if you tossed them into school right now. They are not your typical tweens that have had the benefit of a family to teach them right from wrong, safe from dangerous, fact from fiction. They have all those things now, but it will take some time to learn all of those lessons. And at home they can learn those things without humiliation, fear, or danger. I wish that all 12 yr. olds today could still believe in mermaids, we'd be better off if a fraction of that innocence was still maintained.

Dee said...

Cindy, I read this nodding my head, because I have seen this with my kids, too, all the time. Alesia is worse than Michael, still so naive. When she had been here more than a year she asked me what moon people see in Russia. She was astonished when I said it was the same moon. She was terrified of cars because she had only been in a car 2-3 times in her entire life, at 13 years old. And on and on. I wish I had kept her out of school, but I just couldn't. You're doing the right thing.


Anonymous said...

I too think it's hard to understand if you don't live with these children. Our daughters look and most times act like their chronological age. But the things they sometimes say or the questions they ask remind me that there is a gap in their learning from not living in a family for those 10 and 11yrs. We're fortunate to live in a small, rural community, where everyone knows everyone (nearly), and our kids get a lot of support from the community, our church, teachers, friends. But none of those people, including my in-laws next door, really understand all the language we have to use at our house to explain things nor the reasons I don't allow my kids to do all the same things other parents do. I just had this discussion this morning with my daughter. She has let me know a time or too (smile) that she sometimes feels like I am trying to control her life. Typical teen thought. I tried to communicate the idea that I'm not trying to control, but teach her the things she is going to need to know when she is no longer living under our roof. Her friends (according to her) also think I'm "controlling" her life. From my perspective, many parents allow way too many choices at this stage in their child's life, too much media, too much skin showing, too much freedom to roam around, hang out in front of a friend's computer, owning their own cell phone to text and communicate waaaay too much without any supervision, etc. So regardless if our kids were adopted as older kids or not, I'd have the same values and be making the same choices. Adding in the naive behaviors and learning gaps only makes it all the more imperitive that I continue to be vigilant (in this society, who shouldn't be???)and hold to my convictions.

Don't let anyone try to tell you you're being "overprotective". Our kids don't let down their guard with others as much as they do with us, so no one knows them as they truly are at home.

It's great if you can homeschool all five of your kids. We've chosen the public school route because we've felt we could in our situation. In some ways, I know we're missing out on some things because of that choice. In other ways, I know we've gained things because of their involvement at school. There is no right or wrong answer, except to say that in my opinion, there's never such a thing as helping give a child the confidence that they are a learner, whatever form that comes in.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

I didn't really make it very clear that even though many would consider our daughters age appropriate, outsiders don't see the things I see at home. Our first daughter home (intnl adoption) at 10yrs has been here five years now. She's further along than our newest daughter, home at 11yrs for 2 1/2 yrs now. Our newest daughter does not seem emotionally mature enough for MS in many ways. She's got some very nice, sweet friends who I hope will help her transition, as well as any accomadations the school is prepared to make for her language, math, maturity, etc. We meet May 4again with teachers to talk about the plans and help she will receive.

Adopting older children is not like any other kind of parenting. Just like I would never consider giving advice to a parent with a child with physical disabilities (never been there or done that), I don't believe anyone who hasn't done this understands what is needed. It's not the same thing.

Nancy in the Midwest

the Kahler Family said...

You are giving all of your children a priceless gift: the gift of a childhood without the pressure to grow up!

Our dear Bethany is mentally disabled and in the 4th grade. She is 11, but mentally and emotionally on the level of a 5-6 year old. We feel that she is doing well in public school right now, but she will not be in public school in middle or high school. There is too much room for her to be manipulated and abused in such a setting.

It is our job as parents to protect our children from dangers they are too "young" to perceive, whether that is a 3 year old who must hold hands crossing the street or the young teen whose life experience is limited.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if the orphanages have globes? I'm wondering if this is something they have available and just don't teach, or if its something they don't really have the resources to teach (because its the latter, our favorite foundation can help with the ones left behind)

Barbara said...


You and Dom are doing the right thing. No one can tell you guys different. Middle school and high school are awful places these days for the best for kids, I know, my middle one is dealing with it right now and is graduating mid year next year just so he can get out of the "horrors" as he calls it. It is not a fun place for him. He does not enjoy going to school. He is a great student and I am so thankful that he has not let the outside pressures and the mess ruin his grades, but todays world is not like when we were in high school. You are giving all your kids such a blessing by homeschooling them. I look back now and think if I could have done that for at least my middle one maybe he would be enjoying these teenage years rather than wishing he was done with them. My oldest and my youngest this is not true for, they are social, can let others remarks roll off their backs, and no I don't have the obstacles you are dealing with but I can understand in some sense where you are coming from and please don't ever doubt yourself. Those kids will flourish from your decision and will be great kids and adults because of it.


Carrie DeLille said...

It really is amazing. Our girls, after 2 1/2 yrs are still learning things you'd think they would have known.