Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Birthdays and Forever

You motor along through life, feeling as if things are all settled and good, when suddenly the past sneaks up and take a nibble out of your behind.  With kids and adoption, you just never know when something will rise up.

Olesya's birthday is this Saturday, and she will be the Big Thirteen.  I've been trying for the past month to get her to commit to what she would like to do for her birthday.  Would she like a party?  Yea, sort of...and then the next day she doesn't.  Would she like a family only gathering? No, she really wants some of our "adopted" family friends in attendance...maybe.  For the most part, she simply does't want to talk about it at all, a sure sign that something is definitely going on for this birthday lovin' kid.  She talks about our friend's birthday, for whom she is making a cake and it is on the same day.  She talks about my birthday which is the 24th, and has told me she already is playing with ideas for a cake for me as well and wants to know what gift I would like.  But she is completely avoiding talking about her own birthday.

I've tried privately talking with her, and she denies that anything is wrong.  This is so not true, and yet I can only press so much without making it a bigger problem.  Is it because it is her 13th?  Is there some little part of her that regrets growing older and wants to remain young as long as she can?  We've surely encountered that before around here.  I just don't know.  She suggested that we celebrate together, so we will put it off for a week or so, and try and plan a little something for us together.  Maybe that will help her feel more comfortable about it.  I hate that she is clearly struggling with something surrounding all of this and I can't get her to talk about it so we can work through it.

This afternoon brought another conversation with our other daughter, who reminded me that adoption may feel permanent 99% of the time, but that 1% can sometimes bring about an uncertainty that never quite leaves.

We were talking about debt and credit, and Angela asked me about why so many young people find themselves so badly in debt at young ages, and we discussed making poor financial choices and how they can haunt you for years.  Out of the blue, she then says "If you let me stay here after I graduate, I will try and save money."

What?  "If?"

Kenny and she were sitting alone at the table with me then, and I told her, "Angela, there is not a single question about whether you can remain in your home here with us after you graduate.  Of COURSE you can, this is your home, always!"  She said "But I don't know if I'll be able to afford what it will cost, because I know I will have to pay money and buy things like a car and insurance and I don't know if you'll want me here too."

Kenny was listening intently, eating an enormous peach and for once not yet chiming in.  I decided to make it as clear as I could when I said, "Adoption means forever, period.  Would you leave me alone with no place to live?"  "No, you could always live with me, Mom!" she replied.  "It is the same thing for you, too, Angela.  You or any of the kids can live with us always, until the day we die."

"What if I have no money?" Angela asked.

"Well then, you would just have to pitch in and help as much as you could around the house, because family also doesn't take advantage of each other either...but then you never have and you always are super helpful." I said.

She thought for a moment, then asked "What if I want to travel and help people?  Could I still live with you when I was in America and then go other places, but always come back?"

"Of course!" I responded.  "I think that would be a wise move!"

"What if you have to sell this house and move to a smaller one so you can have money to retire?" Angela wisely asked.

"That's easy, then whatever place we move to, we get an extra room for you, or for any of you kids who are still wanting to live at home with us." I said.

Then it was Kenny's turn and he told her "Angela, and if something happens to mom and dad, you know you will always have a place to live with any of your brothers and sisters, even if it is for the rest of your life.  We will all take care of you, you never have to worry about that.  If my wife doesn't like that idea, then she can leave because my siblings and parents come first!  You will never be alone, ever."

Angela then smiled at Kenny and said "I don't think you better tell your wife that or you'll never get married!" and then they both laughed.

I then told Angela "In all seriousness, Angela, I know you have felt alone before, and the truth is that you were other than God was with you, but you weren't tuned in to that back then.  But now you have 6 other people in your life who you can count on, and that doesn't even include those not living in this house who love you very much and would be there for you if you ever needed help!  You will always have me and dad, until the day we die.  You can live with us forever, you can move out whenever you wish, but you will never lose us or our love and support, OK?"

"I don't know why that is hard to feel for sure sometimes." Angela said.

I told her "Because you've never had it before, and now you do but it is hard to believe it is really forever.  We didn't adopt you just so we could kick you out at 18, or 21 when you finish high school.  We adopted you to be our daughter for all time, even when we are old and totally gray haired.  We want to be part of your life forever and ever, not just while you are a kid."

Then I added "Oh, but I forgot one thing, it DOES mean you have to do the dishes!" and we all laughed.

Forever...what does that word really mean?  Does it mean "until you grow up"?  Does it mean "until I grow weary of you"?  Does it mean "Only while you serve a purpose in my life?"

I've said the words "forever" before in friendship, only to discover that the other person had a different idea of what "forever" meant.  Luckily, when it comes to marriage and children, I have been blessed to know the certainty of "forever".  The harder part appears to be helping our children fully embrace the notion of family being forever.  When life has taught them otherwise, that can be the toughest lesson of all, and take the longest to teach.


Anonymous said...

I wish I had had your wisdom as my children were growing up. Your children are surely blessed.


Anonymous said...

I had this same conversation with R a few months ago. I think part of it is that she talks to her friends who are leaving the orphanage and have no one to turn to. Part because she has never felt secure in where she was until not. She used to say I (& gm) cared about her too much. She used to talk about leaving and going somethere else to college but now brushes it off when sameone says something about go away for college. It is a difficult time for them especially since they were adopted so late. Looking towards the future is scarry, especially since their future is nothing like they imagined in the orphanage.