Every day right now our children and I have to consciously work at seeing the little things, and a lot of inner conversation goes on to keep our spirits up so that none of us feels like failures. When working with older kids who are so far behind in so many areas, it is a daily mantra that reminds you that we can not be comparing ourselves to others, we are on our own timeline and it won't match anyone else's. We fight in our own little realm to cast off discouragement, which frankly is not always easy, especially for Mom/Teacher. But I believe in each of our children, I have faith in the possibility that resides within each one, and I see the genius that exists in some special area that others have not yet discovered. After all, every kid is a mini-genius in something, aren't they? God didn't leave anyone "giftless", the gifts may just be well hidden and need someone special to bring them out in a child.
When it comes to kids like Kenny, particularly, the sleepless nights are many and the daily onslaught is tough to beat. The lack of awareness of the world around him scares me so much, and in the deepest part of night the academic delays swell to feel like a tsunami of sorrow at something we just might not ever be able to overcome. As he does things like mindlessly put two sets of pants on over each other because he just didn't notice, twice puts on his younger brother's pants which are at least 5 inches too short and leaves the house with them on never having noticed, or walks through the spilled soup on the floor that he had just watched his sister spill...all because he just didn't "get it", I can't help but be overcome by the worst case scenarios that maybe this beloved son of mine will never be able to truly function normally in this world. He is NOT stupid by any stretch of the imagination, he just seems almost incapable at times of being fully present and engaged, or of maturing beyond the developmental level of a 7 or 8 year old kid. As we quietly celebrated his birthday on Monday, he admitted he wishes he were two years old again and does not really want to be 12. While every mom would love for her kids to remain younger longer than they do, when faced with the possibility that one child might not, in all seriousness, ever mature to fully functioning adulthood, that desire takes on an entirely different meaning.
God has a way of catching us off guard though, and providing us with hope when at times all feels hopeless. We find ourselves captivated by the unexpected, and in that unexpected moment we are able to draw new strength and find our chests heavy with abiding love for our loved ones who don't fit the mold. I know any parent, adoptive or otherwise, who parents a child who is "outside the box" for any reason understands what I am saying.
Last night was the much anticipated TaeKwonDo belt rank test for all 5 junior members of Team LaJoy. To say the nerves were a little frayed would be an understatement. Angela had been talking about it for 2 weeks, scared she would not advance as the residual effects of her old life kicked in full force, where sports were "do or die" and emphasis was far too heavy on athletic prowess while character took a back seat. Matthew knew he would be facing the dreaded board again, trying desperately to break it this time as he had been unable to do a year ago prior to leaving for Kazakhstan. I reassured him as I pointed out how much larger he was this year, how much stronger he was. Josh was cool, calm and collected on the outside while a basket case on the inside, and Kenny and Olesya both did as they always do and took it in stride.
Our dear friend and mentor, Mr. Steve showed up to cheer them on, and the night was off to a good start...until the kids had to do their patterns and perform. All 5, with the exception of Olesya, made mistakes out of nervousness, and Matthew in particular really struggled as he and his fellow blue belt had received less instruction than usual this session and almost weren't going to take the test due to this fact. His nervousness increased with each missed piece of the pattern and he giggled and grinned with each error. I was pleased that he didn't get upset with himself, and was able to keep trying despite his less than stellar showing. The girls overall did quite well and what was missed was not due to lack of skill but was obviously attributable to nerves. Josh and Kenny knew their patterns inside and out before that evening, but each botched in certain places as well.
But on this night, this time, Kenny came out a winner, and the tears streamed unashamedly down my cheeks as I witnessed this minor miracle for a big hearted little boy.
It was a surprise to us that Kenny was eligible by age and rank to attempt to break a board. This would be his first time, and he could decline to try if he wanted to. In fact, that is what I expected, as Kenny is not one for brute force or shows of strength, he just isn't built that way. He gamely decided to try, and I was proud of him just for the attempt, knowing this was not something he felt comfortable trying and also something he had not known would happen.
There he was, our skinny little guy whose waiste size is 2" smaller than even Joshua's is, and he strode up with the confidence of 10 men as he faced that board. He was required to kick it, and neither Dominick nor myself expected him to be able to do it...not because he wasn't strong enough to do so but because he is not one to hit, kick or punch anyone or thing, and this takes some real force behind your kick to break it. He tried once....twice...and no sign that he would succeed was evident. They were not particularly powerful kicks and were misplaced as well, not centered well on his target which was actually a metaphor for Kenny's life in many ways right now.
Attempt #3 was what it took to turn a struggling, immature boy and turn him into the Man of the Hour for just a little while...see the quick video here:
Sometimes God has a surprise in store, and it is those moments we live for that remind us that success might be just around the corner if we don't ever give up. I quietly lost it, I was SO HAPPY for Kenny!! This was a much needed boost, something he can look back on (and so can I!) when the going gets rough in other areas of his life. Persistence pays, he CAN succeed! Seeing the grin as he sat back down holding his broken board tightly to his chest, I could imagine the sheer unadulterated joy he must have been feeling at FINALLY doing something very well that was very scary and difficult.
Not to take anything away from Matthew. he too slayed the dragon of last year's failed attempt when he broke boards with his hand and with a kick. He later told me he had dreaded it all afternoon and was worried about it while doing his pattern. He couldn't understand why it had bothered him so much! Hahaha! Here is Matthew's achievement:
Unfortunately we didn't get decent videos of the girls or Joshie, but will work on it for next time.
The evening ended up with us attempting to pay off on a debt we owed. We had promised each of the kids that the first time they broke a board we would all go out and celebrate, so it was off to Applebee's for their "kids eat free" night where we were virtually the only ones in the restaurant other than an older Mennonite couple who sat across from us. The gentleman got up and came over to chat with us, asking us questions about our family and where we had been that night. His first question after learning the kids were all adopted was "Well how did you manage to do this?" and we answered with one word, which was honest "God.". He was curious about where the kids were from, and at first assumed the girls were biological and the boys adopted, and was quite surprised to learn all were indeed adopted, and that yes we actually lived here in town. He sat back down and then he and his wife proceeded to watch us the entire remainder of our meal, which made us a bit uncomfortable. We are used to being stared at, or being asked if we are part of a student exchange program (seriously), but this was far more than the usual casual curiosity we experience every day. We were our usual selves though...with me spilling an entire coke as I accidentally set it down on a crayon, and the kids sharing tastes of meals back and forth as we all cut up a little and giggled a lot. I whispered to Dominick that they must think we were a bunch of lunatics, with the mess I made and the passing around of bites of fries and deserts. Oh well, we are certainly not a poster family so this is the best we can do!
When he and his wife got up to leave, he ambled over to us for a little more conversation, and then wished us a good evening as he departed. We commented that he seemed nice enough, even if we had felt a little like we were under a microscope for our entire meal.
Imagine our surprise when our waitress came over and shared with us that our meal had been paid in full by this gentleman! It was so cute to hear the kids all let out a collective chorus of "Awww...wasn't that nice!", and we felt a little guilty for feeling so uncomfortable with it all. I don't know what in the world prompted this sort of generosity, but it sure brought Thanksgiving a little early to our hearts. As we left in the van we all talked about what we wished we could do someday to bless someone secretly the way we had just been blessed. We imagined having lots of money to do something extra special, and hopefully one day we too can do something like this for someone else.
It was on to home and to bed, with broken chunks of board clutched tightly to chests and grins a mile wide. Each of the kids ended up advancing in rank, even with mistakes made, but the greatest success for our entire family came with Kenny's special moment...for we all understand that not much comes easy for him and THIS was a night made especially for him.
If anyone is still considering ordering from Usborne books, we will be taking orders through 11/27/10 and you can do so through this link: www.ubah.com/HOS187453 . Special thanks goes out to those who have placed orders. These books are so wonderful that I envy those of you who are buying ones I am not trying to earn! Hahaha! Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!