Do you ever get stopped dead in your tracks when you see your kids every once in awhile? Do you ever find your heart lurching as you realize they are half grown and your time together is swiftly passing you by?
Today was one of those days.
Matthew has grown 1 3/4" in about one month. He does not appear to be a boy now, but more closely resembling a young man. He acts like one most of the time too, and I am touched by his care for his Mom. I have been under the weather the past few days, and first words out of his mouth the morning when he stopped to give me a hug from his now larger body were "How are you feeling today, Mommy? Better?".
There are moments lately when I am already steeling myself for the Great Escape. Having 4 kids whose ages all fall within months of each other makes you think about things differently, I suppose. I know, I know, our oldest is "only" 12. We have years to go yet, but perhaps God provides us with those twinges so we can be fully present to the moment and value it for the precious commodity that it is. I also know that despite their ages, our kids will be around a couple of extra years do to being in lower grades than they might be if not adopted older. I only hope that every single day I remember this isn't forever, and I tuck each memory aside to pull out at a later date.
For now though, I will relish the all night campouts on our bedroom floor as I carefully place each step as I trudge to the bathroom trying to avoid stepping in heads. I will not worry about the 35 shoes (almost literally) that are piled up near the door. I will not try and weasel out of reading one more bedtime story. I will not get tired of the giggles and squeals, the cartoons and the socks left outside by the trampoline day after day. I will not wish I was a few years down the road, for soon enough I will be, and I am old enough and wise enough to recognize that then I will wish for just one more stray sock to pick up, one more crunched Cheerio under foot.
I am hoping that our homeschooling foray is successful, for it will give us all that much more time to enjoy family life and revel in the closeness we all share with one another. Maybe we feel that need much more than some as with some of our kids we have already missed over half their childhoods. In today's world, we all forget that a mere 100 years or so ago, families were together all the time. They worked together, played together, and yes very often learned together. And more often than not, they stayed together, relying on one another and caring for one another as families should. It always bothers me tremendously to hear parents say "I can't wait for summer to get over so the kids will be out of my way." or "Man, 18 is almost around the corner and then they are on their own and MY life can begin again!". It is often those same people who years later stare back at you from red rimmed eyes as they sit in their nursing home having not heard from their children in months asking "Where did I go wrong? Why don't they even call me?".
Please God don't let us be one of those families. Let us show daily our love and care for one another in healthy ways. Let our children know they always have a home with us, and let them show us respect in return. For anyone in the LaJoy family should never, ever be left alone or lonely, not as long as there is another LaJoy alive on this planet. Too many of us have been alone too long already in our lives.
Another way they grow up is not always visible from the exterior, but those internal changes are even more important. Last night I sat down with Kenny and had a long talk with him about what we learned at his IEP meeting. Why, you ask? Because it is about him, it is his information, and he has a right to know whatever we know.
I explained some of what was discovered with the recent testing, and gave examples of how we have seen that played out in his life. It was both a little sad and enlightening for him. He asked a lot of questions, and also played out a lot of scenarios with me, which he is very good at doing. I explained to him and reiterated it several times that memory issues and processing issues have nothing at all to do with intelligence, but that it simply meant his brain worked differently and we would have to be creative and find ways to help information stick. I explained it meant he might need to do things differently from the other kids in the family as we work on school work.
He asked me point blank if this meant he would ever be able to own his own business or have a real job, or if it was so bad he would never be able to work on his own. I laughingly alleviated his concerns when I explained that there were tons of super bright, successful people who couldn't remember a thing and just hired someone to help them. He then lost the sad look in his eyes and chippered up saying "Yea mommy, I can hire you as my secretary! You would be the best!". He then hugged me and said something I will never forget. "Thank you for homeschooling me, Mommy. If anyone can help me be smarter, I know you can...you love me and will never think I am stupid even if I can't remember things like other kids can."
The faith our children have in us is astounding sometimes, isn't it? It also makes you feel very, very small and scared to know someone sees you as that big.
Dominick and I are going to have a talk with the other kids tonight, as we don't keep secrets in our family and we feel it is very important for them to all understand that Kenny is not being purposeful when he seemingly ignores what we are saying or forgets things. There have been times when we have ALL been frustrated, and we don't want Kenny...or eventually Olesya as well...being seen as the "bad kid" who can't get it together. We are Team LaJoy, and it is up to ALL of us to help each other succeed. They need to understand that certain things will likely always be harder for Kenny, and that it is not that he doesn't care when he doesn't follow through on something, but is due to his brain development that maybe he heard us ask him to do something but it really didn't "click", or that his brain didn't trap the information well enough for him to use it later. They are all old enough now to have seen it over and over again, wonder why Kenny is always the last one to "get it", etc. Now we will use the power of Team LaJoy to help him and support him in all the ways we can. And here, he will be smart Kenny who just happens to be working at a lower grade level for reading and writing rather than being that kid in class who still can't read or write and is even older than everyone else.
How much different will they all be in a month, six months, a year? How will God work in their lives to mature them and bless them? How will God use Dominick and I to help them become the people God intends for them to be? The only certainty in it all is they will continue to grow and grow, like the sunflower seeds we have in the window sill who are straining and reaching toward the sunlight with their freshly minted deep green leaves looking new and unblemished. Over time they will get some nicks and cuts in them, but they will still grow strong and show the world their singular beauty.
And we get to watch it all unfold before us. What a sight that is to behold.