This evening I caught another glimpse of the reason I could not let go of the fact that I KNEW Angela and Olesya were our daughters. There was always something...I don't know how to put it...just so "LaJoy" about them. Despite our challenging beginning the children my soul recognized as ours were always there right beneath the surface. Tonight it rose up to the top again...
Dominick came in the door following the gaggle of kids as they returned from TaeKwonDo and asked Angela to sit down while the others went to shower. I thought to myself "Uh oh...wonder what happened." and then he explained that she was upset because her TKD teacher had told her that next week when they have their belt rank test, he is going to have her test for a yellow belt rather than the interim yellow stripe because she is doing so well. Turns out she was quite upset over this because Olesya is only going to test for the yellow stripe (although she too is getting a step above with a double yellow stripe rather than a single). Angela was extremely concerned about Olesya's feelings and started crying because she didn't want to hurt her sister.
There are moments when I realize I am terribly lacking in essential counseling skills and sure wish I had them. This was one of those moments.
After hugging her for a long while I sat down next to her while Dominick took over cooking duties and we had a long talk. I explained to her that it was unfair of HER to hold herself back simply because one of her siblings was not moving forward at the same pace. I pointed out how each one of the kids is gifted in some area, and Angela is gifted in athletics. I asked her if her feelings were hurt when Olesya learned new words faster than she did, or when Matthew created a much better Lego creation that she could. A slow smile crept in as she acknowledged that she did not feel upset when someone was better than she was at something. We talked about how there was always going to be one better than the other, and as a family we celebrate each others successes, we don't get jealous over them.
I also spoke with her at length about it being our job as the parents to help each of the kids over the rough spots, that it was not her responsibility to make anyone else happy. As long as she was not intentionally hurting someone's feelings or becoming a bragger (she is the exact opposite), then she had done nothing wrong and had no reason to feel guilty over anything. I told her she was only responsible for being a good person and for her own feelings, not anyone else's. She started to laugh through her tears when I commented that Daddy and I could be responsible for all the unhappy feelings any of the other kids had, and would take on helping anyone through their emotional difficulties and she could just forget about it, be happy for herself, and count on us to be the mom and dad so she didn't have to parent anyone at all.
I then said that while we were at it, I wanted to know the truth about why she did not want to play basketball anymore. This has bothered me a lot as she is seriously a pretty good player, and has suddenly shown an aversion to the sport and won't play it even for fun. Her chin trembled but she denied having any idea why she doesn't want to play, but stated clearly that she doesn't want to. My gut instinct says this has something to do with the issues we had back in Kazakhstan with the coach making comments prior to their adoption, but I also could be way off base. Whatever it is, I think she truly isn't sure why she feels the way she does or she can't put it into words. For some reason she is distancing herself totally from it.
You know, we parents all do the best we can, but the fact is that at times we are dealing with issues that even skilled therapists struggle working with. Our kids come with very heavy baggage, and I am often left wondering what I am missing, where I am going wrong, what we need to be doing that we are not doing. It never quite feels adequate, but it's the best I can offer with the limited experiences and abilities I have. There are times though when I wish I had real honest-to-goodness training. Maybe then I would have greater insight and be able to help my kids in a more meaningful way. However, if adoption agencies required parents to have a PhD in psychotherapy, I guess very few kids would find homes! Hahaha!
We hit another mini-milestone today when all the kids finished either their first lengthy book study, or their reading comprehension books for the year. We are well ahead on most subjects and will be finishing 2 years worth in one, with any luck. Reading comprehension for the girls will now be 2nd grade, and they are also halfway through first grade grammar, halfway through science, and over a third done with math. We are making good, steady progress and I am pleased thus far. We still have years of catching up to do, but that is OK. We'll get there eventually...
Off to bed to fight off a cold that is building.