Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Chrysalis, Olesya

Those of you who know the LaJoy's in person recognize the truth in the statement that there are no shrinking violets among us.  We are not necessarily a group of "in your face" folks (Well, Dominick, our lone Chicago Italian might beg to differ), but despite the lack of genetic connection somehow we all escaped the "shy" gene.  But one of us is missing a very important component, the confidence factor, and Olesya is the one we all are worried most about.

Olesya is our one child who knows herself the least, who lacks a sense of certainty.  A long conversation with Kenny and Angela a couple days ago was so insightful as they both expressed concern that someday someone would take advantage of Olesya, and that she might never grow to see herself as valuable and strong.  It is so clear to all of us.  People tend to assign themselves roles in a family...the smart one...the cute one...the little one...the troubled one.  In our family that is a little harder to define due to adopting out of birth order and the natural issues each of our children face, and over and over again Dominick and I reinforce that there are no "roles" in our family, only smart and loving kids living together to be a family.  We have no favorites, but highlight that in our own unusual way, by saying on any given day over any silly thing "Oh wow, you are TOTALLY my favorite kid today!", and of course that rotates as we make certain every kid gets a chance often to have the title "Favorite".  Said something nice about someone?  You're the Fav of the Day.  You went to the fridge and grabbed me a Diet Coke?  Ah, then YOU are the Fav of the Day!  We make a joke about it, including every kid at different times for all kinds of little reasons, and it ironically shows that there is no one "favorite" child in our family.  The kids crack up, and sometimes will even look up at me, like Angela did just yesterday and say "Does that make me the favorite today??" and they all know that if they ask, that automatically disqualifies them...and they love it.

The problem is that no matter how hard we try, Olesya has assigned herself the role of "Honorary Dumb Blonde".  She sees herself as incompetent, and follows through by asking ridiculous questions to get attention or  to try and be funny.  We have done everything in our power to encourage her and to discourage the remarks that make you want to roll your eyes.  Even the kids will say to her "Olesya, you are smarter than that, that's not funny.".  The truth is though that we recognize she will likely never change until she has some sense of herself, until she defines for herself who she is.

Further making this a challenge is that the areas in which she has gifts and is instinctively drawn to are areas which our culture no longer values...domesticity and motherhood.  Let's face it, today our expectations of a woman are that she excel in a career, and her running of her home life is often second banana.  But Olesya is not built that way.  She is a nurturer and a caretaker, she is the rest of the mommy in this family...the parts that I am not innately good at!  When we go someplace, her self-assigned job is to make certain all water bottles and snacks are packed.  What do I do? Look at the kids and say "there's the cupboard, get your bottle...if you forget that's your problem!".  She is the personal reminder for us all of everything we need in any situation, and makes sure we have whatever that might be.  It's as natural as breathing for her.  She loves baking and organizing, and although very intelligent, she is simply not all that engaged by academic pursuits.  In a gaggle of kids who all are surprisingly pretty interested in a variety of things academic (For goodness sake, we just started a unit on government because the kids ASKED for it!), her own neutrality on the whole world of academia makes her feel a little "less then", even though no one else has ever intentionally made her feel that way.  So, I guess she takes that and runs with it as a way to claim a role for herself.

However, last night we just may have taken a big step forward.

Yesterday evening, I found myself sitting at a table with Olesya and another student my age taking a class on Beginning Cake Decorating.  I can hear the laughter from here, from those who know my own ineptitude in the kitchen.  Oh yes, I was surrounded by little metal tips, covered in powdered sugar, and learning the trade secrets of how to bake the perfect cake.  I was deep in discussion about the proper methods for cooling cakes down, and the coolest little secret for having flat tops.

Was it because I have some deep rooted need to learn cake decorating.  Uhhh...not so much.  Was it because I am looking for a second career?  Nope, I have enough on my plate already.  Was it because of some inner artist screaming to claw its way out?  That even has ME laughing out, it is definitely not that.

The reason I was sitting in that class last night, and will possibly for the next SIXTEEN weeks as we work our way through all the Wilton courses is...

Because I love my daughter with everything that is in me, even my nonexistent inner artist, and I would do anything, I mean ANYTHING, to help her see herself as talented, precious and treasured by me. So treasured, in fact, that I am willing to risk looking like a complete idiot doing something that is so far off my radar for things I would ever pursue (Web site design is more up my alley), that I would still spend 48 hours over the course of the next SIXTEEN weeks taking classes and driving to the next town over.

And you know what?  I LOVED IT!  Olesya talked more in the car than she ever has, she thanked me profusely over and over again for doing this with her.  She said several times how much fun it was to be alone with me and to do something special together.  We talked about her desire to own a bakery someday, or some other business of her own...and how easy it would be for her to do with her gifts!  We talked about how she could decorate cakes on the side while staying home with her children someday, and how that would help her be the stay at home mom I think she might really want to be.

Better yet, I decided to jump in the deep end, after all if I am going to do this for the next sixteen weeks, I am not going to suffer through it, I am going to make a decision (for we can do that, you know) to enjoy it!  We got all giggly and girlie looking at the various pans and tools, we plotted and schemed about how we were going to present a few little items to Daddy when we came back home and beg his forgiveness for purchasing them (with me knowing all along that he would never mind at all!), and we drooled over the beautiful cakes shown in the various idea magazines that were shared.  Actually, it was hard NOT to get into the whole thing!  The instructor for the class is a fast talking gal with personality plus, and the other student is a total hoot and perhaps just a few years older than I am. We all laughed so much, and I am more than willing to take on the role myself of class clown and dunce so that Olesya can share her skills and be my personal tutor (not that I am faking it too much, mind you).

What really got me was when I had to stop and explain something in easier terms to Olesya, and explained to the other tow ladies quickly that Olesya only had two years of English so I might need to do that from time to time.  The other student looked shocked and said "She isn't yours?" and I said "Well, she is now, but  I didn't give birth to her, we adopted Olesya and her sister two years ago."  The instructor said "I never would have guessed it, she looks like she could be your biological daughter!"...and I looked over at Olesya who had the biggest smile I have ever seen on her face.  The claiming of one another as our own still continues, still blesses, still amazes, even in such little ways.

So, I know have homework to do, and we will do it side by side, mother and daughter, pretending we know what we are doing and making a huge mess along the way.  Maybe, the real Olesya will emerge and reveal herself to be the butterfly we know her to be.  The awkward tween stage, the acne, the "I could care less how I look" because she wants to play and not worry about older girl things...all of that is even harder for her I think.  But her family knows what's hidden from the world, her family sees the bright, caring, amazing woman that will one day find herself standing strong.  And her mother will do her best to see to it that the woman standing before us one day IS that strong, capable, self-assured person...or at least closer to it than the young girl who thinks she is nothing special.

You ARE special, Olesya!

And you know what I love most about my husband?  You know why, in large part, we have been successful with helping ease our kids into their adoptive family?  It's because he didn't blink when I shared with him what the cost of the class was, or last night when we came home with a few other items.  He didn't say "Well the course is too expensive, why don't we just send her and you stay home."  Dominick gets it, in every single possible way.  He knows this isn't really optional, but is as much a necessity as the milk we need in the fridge tomorrow.  He recognizes that every one of our children is reached differently, and how imperative it is that we do so.  What did he do when we got home?  He sat down at the table and "oohed" and "ahhed" over all the little tips and tools we drug home.  He got in the moment with us, he didn't for a second complain about how hard it is to afford this.  For families like ours, such things are not a luxury.  The only way I can ever reach Olesya is to meet her where she "lives", and we have a far more limited amount of years to do that than others do.  Affording something like a cake decorating class might not be labeled as "family therapy" to some, but for us that is the category it falls in.

The payoff?  From the outside it never appears to be worth it.  The way the LaJoy family "invests" always seems foolhardy, but then most wouldn't find the words "Mommy, thank you SO much for doing this with me.  I can't believe I get to spend this much time with you by myself!  I know you are busy, and I am so happy you are doing this with me.  Maybe I'll get good at it!  Maybe someday I can sell cakes!".

You want to know where confidence comes from?  It can be quite costly, both in terms of time and cash investments.  It's worth it, every single penny and every single moment is worth it.  Olesya WILL emerge from her chrysalis one day, and we all will sit back and gasp at the beauty...

Now, on to the world of Wilton! HAHAHA!  


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful thing to do togehter. And what a blessing that Olesya also sees so much of your love because you are taking the time to do something it sounds like you wouldn't choose to do, except for her. And the "icing on the cake"? It sounds like she might end up being better than her mom (self-proclaimed non-creative person...which is not true) at it. The mom she so admires and looks up to...might not be quite as good at this as she is. That should boost her confidence, too.
This would not be the thing to do with her, if you were Martha Stewart, as that would only be deflating to her confidence.

Nancy in the Midwest

Lindsay said...

I can't think of a more important thing for you to do. To validate for Olesya that her interests are just as important, just as valid as those (academic) interests of her siblings. It is absolute acceptance of her for who she is and where she is in life. I hope you both continue to enjoy the course and it helps Olesya to grow in confidence and self awareness.

Anonymous said...

When we give our daughters a chance to teach us something (In our family, it's "fashion sense"!)then they learn that we love them enough to acknowledge both what unites us (love) and what makes them special as individuals (their own unique set of God-given abilities and talents).

Love from Virginia,


Anonymous said...

Someday a bakery, then a following, then a TV show or someday a family, a following, a career like Mom's. Someday...


The Gobble's (Lanetta) said...

Awe.. Cindy... Crying again at my desk! Goodness - what a GREAT post! :) Have a great day!