It can be heart tugging as your kids hit new stages. Matthew is changing and growing SO much this year! At 11 he has grown over 4 inches in the past 7 months or so, and the crack of his voice tells us other changes are coming as well. He is turning out to be a bigger young man than I ever expected, shoulders are broadening and feet along with them.
It takes some mental readjusting when your child stands before you and suddenly you realize they are capable of so much. He is our official lawn mower, being the only one yet proven responsible enough to ride it carefully, and this week he led the Team when Dad was at work as he hauled wood in the trailer behind it and the other kids all loaded and unloaded it. He is now our Firestarter, and created a beautiful fire this afternoon while we all curled up on the couch reading as snow fell outside.
He is still caught though between boy and man, playing with legos by the hours and giggling excitedly as we talk about decorating for Santa. But the man is emerging more and more often, and this past week as I have been ill he has been very sweet, urging me to go back to bed and rest, cleaning up around the house more, and putting his arm around me as he asks "How are you feeling, Mommy? Can I do anything for you?".
All the kids, actually, have been super sweet. I am not on my death bed by any means, not nearly as sick as we were 2 summers ago when pneumonia struck and we all lost the entire summer to what was likely swine flu. But how nice it is to be the mom and be taken care of too! How wonderful to have each of the 5 rub my back when coughing too much, pour me drinks and tell me not to get up, and work independently on school work sometimes without needing to be nagged. Yes, my life is hectic, yes it is full to the brim with activity and noise, but my cup definitely runneth over with love. This week I was reminded in a million ways how blessed I am to live in this amazing, too-good-to-be-true family. And I also know that to others, our lives would probably drive them crazy!! Hahaha! But it works for all of us, despite how nuts it must seem to others.
Even in the hard times, we are lucky to have real communication. The past couple of weeks with Kenny have been rougher. Mr. I Am In Charge has reappeared for his semi-annual visit. Thankfully, we are down to only a couple times a year! Progress, definitely, but it is so challenging to work with him when he hits this phase...he talks over everyone, he gently pushes his way in, he thinks he is the one to dictate how everything goes. Twice in the past 5 days we had to "sit on him" as he was taking over with adults who were working with him on various tasks. The second time we were none to pleased to learn he had told someone volunteering with him that he thought this work was too easy and he was reading at grade level anyway. Uh...WHAT??? While I would do the Happy Dance if that were true, we have a long way to reach that goal. He just didn't feel like doing the work that day. He also is using his memory issues as an excuse, saying that he can't remember it anyway. The funny thing is, he does things with such humor and politeness that people sometimes don't pick up on it...and he gets called on it every single time with mom around! Hahaha!
But, after chewing him out royally and taking away any fun privileges for the next 2 weeks, plus making him go to bed without dinner at 6:30 PM the night of the worst infraction (Yes, we are MEAN PARENTS>>>TOTALLY!), tonight he turned to me out of the blue. He hugged me and with great sincerity apologized for the past 2 weeks...even saying he was especially sorry since he knew I was sick and not feeling well. He stated exactly what he was sorry for, looked me straight in the eye, and told me he was going to try really hard to do a better job with his behavior. We hugged for a very long time, this tiny little guy who still looks like...and often acts like...he is 8 years old instead of almost 12...and I told him that I knew there were times he likely was so mad inside his heart at the moment we disciplined him, and that at times I felt the exact same way when I was a kid. I also told him I was proud of him for recognizing later on that his behavior had really been wrong, that we loved him and wanted the best for him, that we were not picking on him. It is so nice having honest conversations with our kids, even when it is over the issues that are not easy to work with.
We continue to see in Olesya some of the same academic challenges as Kenny has, but to a lesser degree, thankfully. She is doing fine with language (Fine is putting it mildly, both girls are blowing us away!), but with math...oh my dear, we will struggle mightily for her entire school career, I can tell. She also tends to get distracted more easily, like Kenny, and I am glad we have the home environment where we can allow a little more latitude with getting up and down and taking breaks. She has a caretaking spirit like no other though, just a born nurturer to all she is around. We joke that she is my personal list maker, she loves making lists and carrying them around with us everywhere. She takes great initiative in so many things. Right now she made a chart of all the things she wants to teach Sunny, our dog, and made a little folder to put it in. She is never happier than when she is taking care of someone or something around the house, and having her for a daughter is a double blessing in so many ways.
Joshie makes it hard at times to remember he is only 7. He is in the very weird situation of being the only child working on school work with the group of 4 that is actually at the right stage for his age! But with a 5 year age difference between he and Angela, you'd think the work ethic or ability to focus would present a huge gap. It doesn't, and in fact I have to remind myself that he is that much younger and needs breaks more often. We are happy to have made it through most of the fall without having a bit step backward with attachment/insecurity issues. Every fall prior we have seen big regressions, and he has had a couple of tiny incidents with nightmares, etc. this time but nothing as strong as in the past.
Angela is my perceptive one, the one whose understanding of the subliminal is well honed. She seems to have settled in a bit with her fears of growing up too fast and appears to be in a very comfortable zone at the moment. Her comments about family, about relationships, etc. and her observations of others are always right on and surprise me to no end. She admitted to me the other day that the first month or so in our family she thought we would love Matthew and Joshua more, since we had them as babies. She said it took her awhile but she soon realized we really did love them all the same, but that it took time to get to know each other and now she knows that it doesn't matter. Get this, she even thanked me awhile back for not having babies of our own so that all of them knew we were loved the same. She shared with me that she thought it would be impossible for a mom not to love a baby she had biologically more than an adopted child...but she added that she thought if any mom could do that I could :-0
As the children grow, so to does our understanding of what it means to parent them. I have felt a little in awe of all the transformation going on at one time around us, and with 4 kids all a year and a half apart it is bound to be like this with every new step they take...it will all happen at the same time with 4 kids! But instead of seeing them as just children these days, we are beginning to see the potential adults that are hidden within. Gone are the days, for the most part, of looking down and seeing wide eyed wonder, and now has been ushered in a time of looking straight across into eyes that are coming to new, more adult understandings, and into souls whose world is broadening and seeing more than just their own need. It is a special time as their awareness grows, and though we are years away from adult type friendships with our children, what we see thus far is encouraging and gives me hope that we will continue to be a closely bonded family throughout our lives together. I pray that fervently very often, in fact have prayed for that since long before our family was ever created...let us always have a family that is loving and close, let us figure out how to remain emotionally healthy in a world that often feels in decline.
Walking into Walmart the other day with Matthew's now much larger hand in mine and Olesya's head on my shoulder, I realized we have a good start towards seeing that prayer fulfilled. But the work never, ever stops and the same diligence has to be paid at this stage and throughout the remainder of their childhood if we want to see that dream become a reality. That doesn't mean becoming a helicopter parent and not allowing them to explore and expand their world, but it does mean we can't make any assumptions about our relationships with the kids, we can't think we have "made it" at some point and let up. Just like a marriage, communication has to continue and opportunities for shared adventures have to be created. Luckily, we have the right Team and the right attitude to ensure that happens!