Saturday, January 14, 2012

Asthmatic Reflection of Years Lost and Much Gained

I am awake quite early this morning, as I have been the past couple of mornings as asthma awakens me once again.  Obviously, it is time to get on some maintenance medications for awhile.  Being a late nighter naturally, that means I have been getting about 4 hours of sleep a night this week, so I am hoping that on this Saturday morning I can eventually drift back into a deep slumber,even m if only for another hour or two.  As much as I treasure and miss sleep, these early morning awakenings allow for quite time of reflection which I don't often get these days, so it is not without some benefit.

Josh is sleeping next to me, as he had another night where he felt the need for closeness as insecurity enveloped him.  This precious, beautiful boy of ours is sometimes such an enigma.  Watching him as he sleeps, which I love doing, he is the most angelic creature God may have ever created.  Seriously.  There is something so tender about him, so open, and it is revealed in his visage as he deeply slumbers.  I find it so interesting that all of his siblings see something just a little different in Josh as well, as they treat him with an almost paternal and maternal care.  As we are at school each day, and Josh will say or do something that is beyond his he often does...inevitably one or all will look at me across the table with a look mirroring parental pride in his accomplishments.  They are all protective of him, nurturing of him, as they sense a vulnerability in Joshua that comes alongside incredible strength in a child his age.  This remarkable combination of traits is inexplicable, and yet do seem to co-exist inside the heart of one young boy whom we are all blessed to call brother and son.

A sharp reminder of how quickly time passes invaded our lives this week, as my thoughts drift from my youngest to my oldest...well...symbolically and group acknowledged as oldest.  With Matthew in 7th grade, high school is not all that far off and academic planning for his eventual path must begin.  Yes, it is early, and we  are vowing not to be like others and live so far in the future that we can not live in the present, but there are a couple of subjects I need to wrap my mind around how we will handle as homeschoolers, and begin to look for textbooks and materials as they arrive in our school's lending library so that we can nab them for future use and save funding for other needs.  By thinking ahead a little I can be on the lookout for curriculum that might work well for advanced science and math, as I try to find ways to present creative and rick learning experiences for all the kids.

I laid the chart out on the table yesterday morning, the one which outlines the credits required for graduation, and contrasts it with the credits required for college.  All five of our children hovered around me in a tight circle as I shared with them the details of this document, then leaned back and said "I know that not all of you may decide to attend college, as there are many different paths to a career, but we will not be shooting for fulfilling graduation requirements.  We'll go for college entrance requirements just in case you elect to eventually enroll in college, that way our bases are covered."  Then I asked as an aside "How many of you think right now you will be going to college?", being realistic that there are a couple that are not as engaged by academics or might find trade or technical school to be more desirable.

Every hand shot up, instantly.

Internally I raised an eyebrow, and was secretly quite pleased.  Olesya was one I figured would have no interest in higher learning, and Kenny I thought might feel it would be beyond reach.  Both looked as confident in this very early census of future plans as the other three were.  There are moments, not often, when I give myself a pat on the back.  This was one of them, as it signaled we have achieved something here at home that I doubt would have happened in any other learning environment.  Two children who previously saw themselves as "losers" and incapable now see themselves in a totally different light, and have somehow internalized that they can achieve anything they want to achieve, even if it will be a little more challenging at times.

Whether all the kids will indeed attend college or not remains to be seen, as they may eventually discover careers which don't require it, or that point them in the direction of on the job training, military, apprenticeship, or trade school.  What we are trying to instill in them is NOT that college is the "end all and be all", but that they must have some sort of training beyond a high school diploma, that having an attitude of lifelong learning will serve them well, and we want them to recognize that they can teach themselves or learn anything at all that they desire to learn.

We are also talking early in order to create an ongoing sense of "Team" in the pursuit of higher education, as we recognize the need to work together...not just as parent and child but as an entire, cohesive help them achieve their individual goals.  We will not have the luxury of merely packing them off and loading them into a dorm room at some distant university.  We already know we will have to be highly creative in finding ways to lower the cost, and will likely be a little nontraditional in our approach as we plan to utilize a combination of studying for CLEP tests to gain credits at low cost, online learning at community colleges, and attendance on campus when we have exhausted every other way to keep costs down.  It was funny how Angela looked at me with her ever-the-adult look and said "Mom, we will  all have to study together and pass as many tests as we can...that makes it almost free for a lot of classes!  If we do it together, we can help each other AND save money!"

All this talk of futures, college, and high school has me a little melancholy.  It hasn't been quite 2 years yet that the girls have been home, and Kenny has not yet been with us even 5 years.  Although I don't often give in to it, the feelings of loss lately have been creeping to the surface.  Watching Joshie sleep next to me, I feel totally ripped off as I think of all the time we missed with our three children adopted at older ages.  I seldom have the privilege of watching over our older children as they sleep.  We never got to stand over their cribs, seeing their tiny little bodies curled up and pinch ourselves as we gazed down in wonder at the single most beautiful thing God ever created.  Watching a tiny little guy at the pool yesterday as he toddled along, I suddenly felt this extreme sense of grief over not having held Kenny, Angela and Olesya when they were little...never having had the chance to rock them to sleep or see a toothless, gummy, drooly grin.  It's not an easy thing as a parent to wrestle with.  Here we are,  looking at celebrating our 2nd anniversary together as a complete family and already we have to look at the future as we plan a middle and high school path!  It's NOT fair, and sometimes acknowledging that very real loss is necessary, and an important part of the adoption process.  Thankfully, it doesn't stay with me long, but there are moments when it is overwhelming, and fills me with deep sadness.

When it is harder is when I catch one of them feeling it, when Olesya was half-joking the other night about not being a baby with me and wishing she could have been, when Kenny quietly told me in the car Thursday on the way to speech that he sometimes was jealous of Matthew and Joshua for having all sorts of memories with us when they were young, and that he wondered why God hadn't put him in our family when he was younger so that he could have maybe avoided some of the struggles with his brain that he now has to face every single day.  It is Angela who sometimes seems to quietly long for an earlier childhood with us the most, as she doesn't speak much directly about it but fiercely claims us as her family and tells me every once in awhile how she wonders why her first mom was such a bad one and probably never loved her at all.  She, of all the kids, clings to family so completely, guarding against growing up too soon and valuing every game and movie night we have together, every tradition we share as if it were completely precious.

We all lost, and we all gained.  It is what it is.  I am OK with it, but that doesn't mean it still doesn't hurt sometimes.  Every parent goes through the "I can't believe how quickly time is passing." stage, for us, it is compressed more than for others.  Thankfully, the here and now is so sweet, so wonderful, that we are squeezing it for all it's worth and consider ourselves incredibly blessed that our blending as a family wasn't a rockier road, allowing us to quickly move into family mode than others are able to do.  We know what a gift that is.

It is back to sleep for me, hopefully, as I take advantage of a houseful of sleeping kiddos and try and catch a few more "zzzzzzz's".  Time for reflection is over, for now.  A little wallowing is enough :-)


Mishelle said...

A lot of private colleges have large endowments for student scholarships, and they value students with non-traditional backgrounds and unique talents. Maybe another option?

Anonymous said...

I'll echo Mishelle on colleges. The private ones look for ways to broaden their mix. There are also other ways to approach this. Maybe someday we can have a long talk. There might be a way to make some money just by being a consultant on applying for and financing college.

I cannot ease your pain about all you have missed in the children's lives, but I can say once again that I don't know anyone who has been more present (a presence) in the life and growth of your children. Where I will and do have sketchy memories of my kids' childhoods, you will have a storehouse of treasures.

Blessings on each and every moment,

Anonymous said...

First, I don't know about CO or your school district, but I know some homeschool families who take advantage of the college level courses offered through our local high school. Our kids are enrolled in public school and have taken or are taking the opportunity our district offers with either college credit or also dual credit classes. In the latter case, they get both high school and college credits. Some of these classes are offered by a nearby jr college. Others are offered through a state university. A few are online, but in most cases, either a visiting instructor teaches or our local high school teacher qualifies to teach them. Our older kids all headed off to college with one or nearly one semester's worth of credits. It has been a blessing financially for us.

Our four left at home are all working towards being ready for college after the traditional four years of high school. Yet, in reality, it might be that some of the four need to take a different route. We want them to have those expectations and high goals for themselves, yet at the same time I sometimes discuss with them that things might go a little differently for them than their peers, or older siblings. It's a fine line, wanting them to aim for that goal, but also wanting them to know we will help them achieve what is possible in these next four years and then see what is best for them. If that makes sense.

Our newest two have much catching up to do, though the process is happening at their own pace. They have helps in place, but we are constantly needing to keep on top of those things/advocating for them in the schools. We're in a small, rural district, where we feel their teachers and for the most part the administration is working to help them.

I've had to work at accepting that theirs might be a different path, as hubby and I consider our college days as times of great growth as Christians. We had great fellowship and teaching that we couldn't have had in our own small towns. We made lifelong friends during those years. We also met there! So it's taken me a bit to accept that especially our two newest might take other paths to such things. Oh yes. Hubby and I also learned a thing or two academically in college, too! Neither of us used our teaching degrees in the traditional sense, but we wouldn't trade those years. Yet, like you, we haven't had our last four kids as long as the ones either birthed or adopted as infants. They will have lived longer in the orphanage than they will have here at home with us. That is sad, indeed, yet the way it is.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

I did it again...wrote too many thoughts and had to split it in two!

Also like you, we try to spend as much time together as a family as we can, home together when we aren't at one or other of their sporting/music activities. I keep a rather short "leash" on my kids, requiring more family time than most parents of teens. I figure they spend enough time at school/pracitces/events with their friends. So usually the rest of the time (when there is any) is for family. I'm reminded in reading your late night musings, that besides being of benefit to the oldest still at home for
1 1/2yrs, it's being fair to the two who came home at 10yrs and 11yrs to build those family memories with those we can still "keep" at home as much as possible.

And while our high school jr would often like to spend some time with friends or at another home or two watching sports with "the guys", he quite quickly settles in to watch an animated family movie or sports with the family. I just remind them all that soon enough they will be gone and not under our roof. They don't put up much of a fight over such decisions. They just know that's the way mom is!

I can see that our newest two feel it at times when the others are talking about childhood memories or looking at photo albums. Yet they do have good memories and photos of those years spent in a loving children's home. That helps some, at least.

Now off to bed for me, a late nighter, too. Sorry my comments are often more like "posts", too. Though we are going about some things differently, I can often relate to your thoughts and adjustments/struggles with children brought home at older ages.

Nancy again

Anonymous said...

R has only been home for 8 months and we are already talking about college, jobs, children. 14 years lost for us - her childhood lost. So unfair - it seems like our older kids will be adults before we have any time with them.


Carrie DeLille said...

It is so hard to grow them right out of your house....a sense of forboding and yet, so many joys to come :o) To watch and see what they do with their lives. You have instilled curiosity in them, you have instilled a sense of security, that will get them so far and one day.... grandchildren!! WOOHOO!! It's so hard to know how much of their lives you've missed when you adopt. So hard to not feel totally ripped off. You have done great things in your little snippet of time :o)