Saturday, August 11, 2012

Late Night Heart Talk

As a parent, you have to be aware that the conversations you need to have with certain kids who have more introverted personalities have to happen when they are ready.  Often, when they are ready is not when you are expecting it, but if you are really tuned in you can sense when they might be more open.  It is now 1:27 AM, and I am fresh in bed from having had some precious alone time with Olesya, who opened up to me in ways she has never done before.  How did it happen?  I stayed up with her to help her finish a cake she is making for a French Revolution Birthday Party for Joshie's buddy (It was decorated with a Bastille, or a reasonably facsimile.), and then we cleaned up after the house was quiet and nothing but the hum of the dishwasher accompanied our conversation.

I had a phone call earlier in the evening with my friend, and we talked about Olesya's hesitance to plan a birthday party this year.  We hashed over reasons she might be unable to get excited about it.  I am so grateful for the people in our lives who love our kids too, who let us bounce things off of them as we work through how to approach a problem.  I hadn't really talked this out with anyone else, and it sure helped and probably prepared my heart for the conversation later in the evening.

With everyone in bed, I asked Olesya if she could even name what it was that was bothering her about her birthday, or why she just wasn't enthusiastic about it this year.  Was she feeling somehow slighted over Angela and Matthew's birthday, which was a little bigger this year to make up for missing Angela's last year?  Was she uncomfortable turning 13?  Was she wanting a party but trying to keep things easier for us?  I told her I just couldn't figure out what was wrong this year, when the prior two years she had LOVED her birthday and waited anxiously for weeks for it, while this year it was like it wasn't even happening.

She got quiet and said "Well, I think maybe there are a couple of reasons."  I urged her to go on "I really miss Meridian and Rowen, and it feels sad to have a party without them."  Our young friends are the children of the couple who just got married recently, and they moved out of state right after the wedding.  Angela too had a very hard time with their departure, crying a lot the day we said good bye.  Although the kids were quite a bit younger than ours, this was the first time that friends in America had to bid farewell, and I guess  it was harder on both of the girls than I had understood.

We talked about that for a few minutes, about how friends come in and out of our lives, and how that can hurt...but how caring about someone also is one of the best feelings in the world and we need to not shut down our hearts just because it hurts when they are gone or have to leave us, because we'd miss out on too much love and laughter.  She took this in quietly, then said "You're right, Mom.  Maybe that is what I am doing, because it was what I learned in Kazakhstan.  I'd make a friend, then they'd leave the orphanage, and I'd be left alone.  Sometimes it was better not to make close friends."

I then said "Is it hard turning 13 years old?  Does it feel too grown up for you?", thinking that maybe time was passing too quickly for her and she wanted to grab on to her younger years for as long as she could.  While that wasn't it, there was another reason that was related and I very much understood what she said when she told me "No, not at all!  But I think maybe I am not comfortable because I don't know whether to have a kid party or a grown up party...sometimes I feel like a little kid like Josh, and sometimes I feel very old and I don't know what to do."

Ahhhh...the dilemma of many tween/early teens.  Too old to really be a kid anymore, too young to be more adult.  It's not a fun place to be, and most of us can relate.  Olesya said "It's like I want to be a kid for awhile longer, but I don't really even know I am stuck."

Then she really had me smiling when she said "But I think the biggest reason I didn't want to think about my birthday was that it is on the same day as Zack's, and I was really excited about making his cake and it was like that was all I could think about and I couldn't get it out of my head!"  She then added in a very serious tone, "Mommy, I am not lying when I say I want to have my own business someday.  I want to learn how to run a restaurant from you and Daddy, I want to maybe have my own bakery or something like that.  I know that sounds crazy because I am only 12...well...almost 13.  I asked Daddy the other day how old you have to be to get a food license, and he said he wasn't sure but we could find out.  I dream about maybe even selling stuff just for a day, like at the corn festival or something like that."

And just like that, our conversation turned into a softly voiced list of all of her gifts, as I named them one by one.  I told her I had every confidence that she would live out her dream, because she had all the skills to do so.  I shared that I saw in her the ability to put in long hours and work very hard, the desire to learn new things, an ability to be highly organized which is what it takes to run a business well...and a love of being in the kitchen and serving people.  A shy grin appeared as she said "Thank you Mommy!", and I then said, "It has been so much fun to watch you change and grow these past 2 1/2 years.  You have really discovered who you are and what you want to do in this world!  So I am wondering, in what ways do you see that you have changed, because I see a lot of changes in you!"

She stood there quiet for a moment, leaning on the other side of the counter as she thought, then she said, "Well, I don't think I am lower than other people anymore, I know I am equal.  Sometimes I forget and don't act like it, but I always hear your words in my head now and try to remember it."  She thought a bit longer then said, "And I know I am smart now!  I thought because I was dumb in math that I was just dumb, but now I know I am smart in a lot of things, besides, you were bad in math and I think you are super smart so I can be smart too even if I am bad at math."  Finally she also added "Most important, I have changed because I am loved and I know it is always there for me.  It makes me feel different about everything."

Then she came around the counter and gave me a long, slow hug and said "Thank you Mommy, for everything you do...for teaching me, for taking classes with me, for cleaning up with me.  You are the best Mom ever."  and then she grinned wider and said, "And even though I sometimes get mad when you catch me, I am really, really glad you are not letting me act dumb." and then she giggled as she said, "How do you ALWAYS know?"

Mom secrets, Olesya, and someday you'll "always know" too!

We finished cleaning up, and put the cake to bed for the night.  I stood there with my arms around my almost 13 year old daughter, whose heart is as big as the Grand Canyon and whose confidence is growing daily and might one day match it.  The early morning calm was settling over the entire house as we stood there, all the lights dimmed with the exception of the yellow glow from above the stove.

This was worth staying up until 1:30 AM.


Carrie DeLille said...

Oh Cindy LaJoy, you are such a gifted parent and we all learn so much from you. What precious times you and and you share with us all!

Anonymous said...

"'ll 'always know' too!"

Yes, I think Olesya and each of your children will have a compassionate, empathetic knowing because of your sensitivity and wisdom.

Some of us fumble along and hit on it occasionally. How fortunate your children are.


Anonymous said...

Some of the best things in life are worth waiting for...congratulations on the long-awaited break through and love to each and every one of you.

From Boulder.

Nutmeg said...

We talked when I was in Montrose in May to see my parents, Carol and Phil. I got this email today at work and thought of you and your kids, so I thought I'd pass this along to you.
Karen Nesius Roeger

Hi Everyone,

I'd like to share with you a great book to include in your collections. It is called Smart on the Inside by Eileen Gold Kushner as told by Kathy Young. The book is geared towards ages 10 to adult!

Here's the link to Amazon: in print and eBook

From Amazon
"It was not easy for Eileen, who was categorized as “stupid” and “dumb” in school and bullied by her classmates. Yet, when she discovered her inner talents and applied them as a businesswoman, everyone saw she was really “Smart on the Inside.” Smart on the Inside is Eileen Gold Kushner’s personal story of overcoming her learning disabilities. It chronicles her journey from failure in school to success in business. Eileen’s story has been captured by Special Education teacher Kathy Young, who has worked hand in hand with Eileen for more than 18 years to help children within their community and around the country. Both Kathy and Eileen say, “None of us can do it alone. We all need support and acceptance from others.”¬ Smart on the Inside helps parents understand the importance of encouraging children who may learn differently to believe in themselves; motivates teachers to teach students with disabilities the strategies that will help them succeed in school and in the workplace; shows students with learning differences that anything is possible with hard work and perseverance.""

Eileen is the most caring and giving person I know! I read this book when it was in ARC form and couldn't wait for others to be able to read it. She came and talked to my students a couple years back and she really connected with them. A few had tears in their eyes because they knew what is was like to be called "stupid" or "dumb" by a teacher just like Eileen did. (For those of you who don't know, all of my students have some sort of learning challenge-dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, etc). Eileen now owns 3 McDonald's restaurants and is doing great despite what she was told as a child. It's a great example to show other students with struggles that they need to find their strengths and hold on tight and they'll be able to do anything they put their mind to! Eileen is a very inspiring person for everyone, with or without learning challenges. Eileen's share of profits go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

This is a great book to inspire students with learning differences, The book is also an excellent choice for parents since it would stimulate discussions about self-advocacy, self-awareness, bullying, self-esteem, accommodations, and life skills.
Free curriculum resources will be available on their interactive website


Michelle Levy, MLIS
School Library Media Specialist
Eton Academy (1st-12th grades)
1755 Melton
Birmingham, MI 48009 (home) (work)

“A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher.”
- Seth Godin