Thursday, March 01, 2012

Passions

The blog may have been quiet over the past couple weeks, but my brain was not.  There were several reasons for my brief sabbatical, but mostly I guess I was uninspired to write anything.  I was ruminating on a few topics, and had a school project I was working on for the kids for their end of the year field trip, which we submitted to our district in hopes of gaining approval for a Colorado State History trip to Denver to see several sites.  If we don't get the approval to use the remainder of our allotted funds for the year we will not be going, so we are hoping there are no glitches.  While it was less complicated than last year's trip, it still takes a significant amount of time as there is a lot of documentation required.  From what I have learned, most folks don't go through the hassle of submitting everything required to use their funds for such trips, but I guess after 5 international adoptions, this seems like a cake walk! Haha!  All that paperwork paid off, as there will be almost nothing that ever comes our way again that will intimidate me.  Yes, I hear the nods of agreement from all of you who have done the same thing :-)

There seemed to be a theme to my musings this past week, and that was how much happier we all are when we have a passion in our life.  Helping our children discover their passion and helping them pursue it with gusto is, in my opinion, one of the most important jobs any parent can have.  Sure, we all want to teach them manners and morals, and in our case there are the ABC's and the 123's, but somehow all of that seems to pale when contrasted with two key things...Faith and Passion.  Without either, life is opaque, you can still make out a path, but it isn't well lit and certainly not inviting to walk down.

You all already know about the faith piece in our family, I share a lot here on the blog about what we believe, and how we integrate faith as a part of our daily life.  The fact that we attend church every Sunday helps, but it is probably not the most important part of our efforts to raise our children in the Christian tradition.  I would like to think that the thing that has the greater impact is quite simply inviting God to be present daily in our home.  I will not say that I think it is the fine example Dominick and I set for them, for we fail miserably all too often, and I think there are others in their lives who live far more faithfully than we do who are a much better example of what we actually wish we were.  However, at least the kids see us striving each and every day to be Spirit connected, and that has to count for something.

Passion is the tough one, particularly with kids adopted at older ages.  Why, you ask?  For many reasons, but mainly because they come to you much older and without the earlier developmental exploration having been done that is the framework for anyone figuring out who they are and what they really enjoy.  This may seem silly, but I wonder how many other parents of older adoptees have found it difficult to buy birthday and Christmas gifts the first few years home.  Each of our "olders" has taken a long time to begin to settle into anything that truly interests them.  They flit from one thing to another, just as toddlers will do, trying something for a short while, abandoning it for something else, maybe circling round again to the original activity or deciding it really wasn't their cup of tea after all.  Without claiming to be any sort of expert here, I think this process is not only inevitable, but quite necessary.  I think until you have parented a child that is older and comes from a severely experientially deprived background, you don't really sit back and take stock of just how many enrichment activities and day to day opportunities exist in child's life when they grow up in a family, all of which helps he or she define who they are.  This is sometimes hard to explain to others when they ask what your kids are "into", and you don't have a decent answer for them.

We feel fortunate that one of our children has such a strong sense of himself and knows exactly what interests him.  Matthew needs little nudging in any direction, and has the same passions he had when he was 3 years old, only they have blossomed further out to include the fringes of what he first loved.  At 12 years old, his Lego creative life is still going strong, and provides him with the creative tools to build upon another passion...aircraft.  Taking that another step, Civil Air Patrol is a dream come true for him as he studies fervently the physics of flight, leadership skills, and aeronautics in his pursuit of one day obtaining his pilot's license.  Add in his love of history, and his pleasure in reading any history book he can get his hands on, and Matthew has made it very easy to steer and guide him toward his passions.  We also realize this is fairly unique, that a child would have such a strong sense of where his passion lies at such a young age.

With Kenny, we are only now beginning to see a passion surface, and odd though it may seem, theology has grabbed hold of him and is shaking him hard!  While it might be a surprise to some, maybe  to those of you who have read the blog since it started back before Kenny came home it is not.  He is a very unique young man, and I discovered very early on that when discussing his own behavior, I made more headway when I related it to faith than I did when faith was absent from the conversation.  This passion, however, is a harder one to work with and encourage in someone so young.  After all, there isn't any sort of "Theology Club" for 13 year old boys!  AWANA with Scripture memorization or a standard youth group type environment would never fulfill Kenny's needs in this area, as even after he came home from church camp this past summer he couldn't understand why he couldn't manage to engage kids in conversations that were of a deeper theological substance.  Thankfully, God plopped Kenny right smack dab in the middle of a congregation who would accept his differences, and yet still see something hidden behind all of that and support him in numerous ways.  There are few places where a child like Kenny would not only be allowed to attend the adult study, but would be encouraged to participate.  There aren't many pastors who would help gently interpret his responses, or work hard at subtly reframing others' comments in such a way that Kenny is able to understand and be more fully involved.  There are few places where someone (Thank YOU, Lael!) would offer to take an entire weekend and travel with Kenny to Denver in April so he could meet his theological idol, Marcus Borg, and  attend a conference where he is lecturing.  While it might make our parenting job much easier if he were a typical kid and had a passion for GI Joe, baseball, or Scouts, parenting a child like Kenny is absolutely fascinating, and his unusual passion is a gift in many, many ways.

The girls are still feeling their way along, with Olesya doing lots of flitting from one thing to the next and Angela finding so many things interesting but unable to settle on anything firmly.  Whether it sticks or not, I don't know, but Olesya has developed a love of baking, and is checking out all kinds of books from the library on decorative cakes and goodies, and is making her Amish Sweet Bread recipe anytime I'll allow the mess in the kitchen.  Lael delivered a bread recipe book today, one that she herself had used for years, and Olesya spent every free moment this afternoon marking recipes she wants to try, and she spent much of this evening watching cake decorating on Netflix.  Don't laugh too hard, but I have promised to take a cake decorating class with her this summer.  If anything, my supreme failure at it will give her confidence, and it will give us a little something to do together, just the two of us.

Angela, on the other hand, is really finding it hard to find a passion, although she may not realize it but she has stumbled upon one which we all laugh over today.  Way back when she first came home, Angela stated clearly on several occasions that she did NOT like books, and would only read if she had to.  Today she was excitedly sharing with me about a book in the Trailblazer series which she just discovered and is gobbling up.  She happily told me she was going to try and read them all.  I have a feeling it will take Angela longer than the others to really find herself, because she is not a crafty person, and she no longer expresses much interest in pursuing sports, which were her initial passion out of lack of other options.  For Angela, it almost feels as if the entire world has opened up to her and she is savoring simply being in that world before traipsing down any particular path.  I think, though, that another unrecognized passion for Angela is a simple one...family.  This girl loves her family SO much, and her idea of a GREAT evening is all of us being together doing anything...reading, playing, telling stories, watching a movie...it doesn't matter.  Often she will say "I wish we didn't have to go anywhere or do anything tonight, I just want us to have a family night!" Eventually, she will settle on something, as she has many gifts and is still a "baby" in terms of how long she has been in a family and had the opportunity to be exposed to a large variety of things.

Little Joshie has passions, but they too are unusual...numbers of all kinds, dissections and a recently discovered one...shooting.  He received a BB gun for his birthday from his best friend's mom, and last week we hit the backyard for the first time with gun in one hand, and Diet Coke cans in another. The girls and Kenny all came along and listened as I instructed Josh in how to use the gun safely.  I heard my Dad's lessons clearly come back as I handled the BB Gun and impressed upon Josh that this was still a weapon.  My Dad would take me target shooting sometimes, and I owned my own .22 rifle when I was a teenager.  Luckily, we live out in the country and have several acres of vacant land behind us, so we have the perfect set up for having fun with a BB Gun.  We loaded it, set up our can targets, and then plinked away.  Josh kindly gave everyone plenty of turns, and no one could hit the broad side of a...well...a Coke can! Hahaha!  We started out about 10' back, no luck...Olesya couldn't hit it, Angela couldn't hit it, Kenny couldn't hit it.  Josh picks up the gun and the first 10 shots hits it 7 times.  I move him back to about 20 feet, he hits it again about 6 or 7 times.  He is a total natural!  Our friend had seen that last summer when we were in Colorado Springs with the kids and they were shooting at a coin operated gallery where Josh hit the targets easily over and over again.  Me? Let's just say that Josh is a chip off the old block :-)  Every once in awhile I say a little prayer of thanks to my Dad for the hours he spent teaching me things that were not traditionally girlie activities.  All the kids were laughing saying "We better not get mom mad!  She is a great shot!".  Thanks to Josh's shooting prowess, we are investigating junior shooting clubs, where he can perhaps further develop a new passion.

As parents, we all have so many things we wish to cram into our allotted 18 years.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of schedules and chores that we neglect the things that make a life feel whole.  "Doing" just for the sake of doing is pointless. Being able to say "Yea, my kid in in Scouts and on the football team and in the choir and the debate team and the business club and..." is cool, I guess.  But are any of those things truly what they are passionate about?  Or are they "busy makers", attempts to keep them occupied, or if older to have them look good for scholarship applications?  It's taken me awhile to really get it that it is not at all about how much you do, but what you do that matters.  I'll often suggest activities or opportunities that come up, and every year I ask about sports as seasons come upon us.  The kids know now that they are safe to say "No, I have no interest in that." if they really feel luke warm about it.  They are also free to say "Sure, I'd like to at least try it!" even if they are uncertain if they will ultimately like it in the long run.  We try to be mindful about providing opportunities for exploration, yet let them know firmly they never have to say "yes" just to please us because we suggested something.  They have options, lots of them, and our job is to help them sort through them until they find the ones that make them grin!

And my passion?  What is it?  Awww....that's not fair, you already know :-)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Passion? We don't need no stinkin' passion!

Oh, never mind, gotta drive my kid to dance class. :-)

Kelly

Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carrie DeLille said...

A GREAT post! I love reading about Sam's twin. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Be still and know that I am God. Yet in the midst of all that you do and all of you in the family God finds a moment or a child to speak. Amazing the situations, the people, the emotions, the pain, the joy, through which God taps us on the shoulder or whispers in our ear or stops us in our tracks.

We used to give up something for Lent, but I think what we are asked to do is give up some time and attention to God, to begin to make this a priority in our lives. Practice now and continue to listen, feel, see, use all our senses or wait in stillness, perhaps in the darkness of the night of the soul to be present with God.

Blessed be Kenny--stepping forth into life with a soul still resting in the heart of God, in tune in a way most of us have left behind in the noise and dust and stress of life.

Blessed be the LaJoys who live into love.

Amen,
Lael

Hello, Adulthood...But Not Goodbye, Childhood

During these waning days of summer, new adults are slowly blossoming and, for one, childhood is very gradually beginning its tentative wave...