Monday, July 15, 2013

Growing More and More

There are moments when you look at your child and realize that there has been a little leap yet again in maturity, and you hear the tick tick ticking of the clock counting down the time you have left for the family to exist in the way it currently does.  We all know it passes far too quickly, but there are times when it just seems to jump forward rather than ease that direction.

This weekend we had a double duty trip to the Denver area, as I was working at a homeschool show representing Nancy Larson Science, and the date coincided with the weekend we were to drop Matthew off at La Foret, the kids' church camp.  We all piled in and got out of Montrose for the weekend, which is always fun even if it is an extremely long 5+ hour drive.  We had no plans other than the hope of meeting old friends, which the weather didn't allow to happen, and swimming in the hotel pool, which the kids got their fill of.

I spent the weekend working at the show, meeting Catholic homeschooling moms, and looking into the heart of my daughter.  Angela asked to stay with me Friday, and we talked and giggled so much that the time flew by.

We somehow got on the subject of birth parents, and Angela admitted she wished she had baby pictures of Olesya and herself.  She also said she couldn't remember at all what her biological parents look like, and she wondered if they were still alive, and if they were sober or still a mess.  What astounded me was when she said, "Mom, I know this sound crazy, but I totally forgive both my parents...even my mom for the bad things she did.  When I first came home, I didn't really know what to feel about them, and I was scared to talk about them at all because I didn't want you to get mad at me or think I wanted to go back.  I had all these feelings about them that were a big mess inside.  Now I am more mature, and I don't even feel like being angry at them anymore.  All that does is make me upset and doesn't change anything."

"Angela, I am proud of how far you have come in your understanding of your parents.  There are a lot of people who would let their past hurt them for the rest of their lives, but somehow you've figured it out and that takes a lot of hard work." I said.

She surprised me when she responded, "I couldn't have done it without you.  You showed me how to forgive.  You helped me talk about things that were deep inside and bothering me so much, and you always forgive people, even ones that hurt you badly."  Then she added, "It is a perfect fit, our whole family, isn't it?  I mean, when I look at our family is when I totally get God and believe in God.  There is no way any of us should have ended up together, and you and Dad are the perfect parents for us.  I sometimes think about if I had ended up with a different Mom and Dad, and if they had wanted me to be the kind of girl I'd never want to be.  I am SO glad I ended up in my family!"

Later the conversation turned to boys, more specifically brothers.  There were several very nice boys at the orphanage, and of course they were in many ways like her brothers.  She said many of them were kind and fun to play with.  We talked about her old life and the friends she left behind, what might become of them, who she thought had a chance at making a real life for themselves and who she could already tell even at young ages probably would immediately end up in trouble, or worse, upon leaving the orphanage.

It was during this part of our afternoon conversation when Angela's love for her brothers really came across.  She compared them to her orphanage mates and to boys she knows in America, and she said, "No other boys are as nice as my brothers.  We tease a lot and joke with each other, but really Mom, I watch other boys and none of them are as polite, helpful or good as my brothers.  I also think you and Dad adopted the cutest boys ever!  Maybe it is their personality that makes them cute, but they can tease but not be mean at all, and I like teasing with them."  She then specifically talked about Kenny, saying, "And Kenny may have problems Mom, but he is the most loving boy ever.  I mean, all three of them are, but Kenny is special that way because his love is so open.  The woman he marries someday will be treated like a princess, and I think he will find a good wife even though he may need help remembering things.  Some girl is going to want the kind of love that Kenny can give them, and will see how it is worth the work to be with him.  I don't know of any boy who is as really sweet as Kenny is."

We talked about Joshie and wondered together if he will ever truly feel 100% secure in his life,or if he will be carrying around a blankie when he is 30! Haha!  We spoke of Matthew's solid strength and quite sense of humor.  Angela said she was particularly glad for Olesya that they were adopted into our family, because she was afraid that boys who were different from her brothers might have been very unkind to Olesya.  She said, "Remember when we have talked about everyone not letting Olesya give in to us so she can become stronger and not try and earn our love by giving us everything?  A lot of boys would have taken advantage of her, but our brothers would never do that and actually try to help her grow stronger and know she is loved for who she is.  They don't talk a lot about love, but they show it all the time. I guess guys mostly don't talk about love, but it is more important to act loving, and they always do.  I was really worried about Olesya at first, but it didn't take long to see that our new brothers were really, really good boys.  Remember the little ceremony they did for us in Kazakhstan?  I think that is when I knew we would both be safe in this family."  (Here is a post from that time 3 years, even looking at the photos again brought tears to my eyes!  What a challenging, amazing time in our life: )

I am so glad that our sons unknowingly created a sense of quiet acceptance from the very beginning.

Angela and I spent the rest of the evening at the booth, waiting for the few attendees to get out of workshops.  We were huddled over my cell phone laughing like crazy as we goofed around and texted Dominick and the rest of the gang.  Considering that is something I never do, it was quite hilarious to see our mistyped words!  They sent us pictures of them swimming trying to make us jealous, and we sent photos back showing we were having just as much fun! Dominick even sent us a video of him chewing something in slow motion, teasing us as we waited for dinner.

One thing I enjoy most about being a member of our family, is the joy we take in the silly, less-than-thrilling-day-to-day activities.  This could have been a relatively boring weekend for the entire clan, instead it turned into a sweet time of togetherness, marking the ways in which we are all growing and maturing together.

The second day of the show was when we saw some of that growth out of Kenny.  He hooked up with several kids there,some from a long time adoptive family we know and had fun with two years ago, and he spent much of the day playing with them all over the place.  There were many great things for kids to do at this facility, as it had outdoor play equipment, a gym, and a youth room with game tables.  Often I ask myself if Kenny will ever manage to grow up to be a responsible individual, even though we recognize his challenges are through no fault of his own.  This weekend my hope grew!  I told him he could continue to hang out with his new found friends, but he had to check in with me every 45 minutes or so, and he couldn't leave any particular area without letting me know.  I honestly expected him to blow it the first hour, but I'll be darned, that kid checked in like clockwork throughout the entire day!  He used his watch, he wasn't a minute late, and I complimented him several times telling him how proud I was of him for this accomplishment.  A year ago, I think this simple task would have been impossible for him, and as small of a step as it might seem for a 14 year old to do, for Kenny this was real progress!!

Dropping Matthew off at camp today was the first time I have ever had any concerns.  This is his first year in the high school camp, and he is a young 14 having just turned 14 in June.  That means there is a wide age gap between he and the oldest kids in camp with him, and I could tell that he was a little intimidated by the sheer size and age of the kids as he checked in.  Despite it being a church camp, many of the girls were many girls dress these days.  It's hard to explain, because our kids are not naive despite being homeschooled, and we have worked hard to keep that from ever happening.  However, they are definitely on a different wave length than many of their peers, and as they grow older...particularly this past year or is far more noticeable.  Some of it is due to our insistence that they not yet enter the world of social media and do not carry phones around or remain unengaged with earphones in.  Part of it is living in a very rural area versus the majority of the kids at camp who are Denver Metro youth.  Part of it is also that we homeschool and are not at all tuned into the typical teen drama.  I know he will be fine, and talking with my mom on the phone later we agreed wholeheartedly that Matthew is solidly grounded and will not get sucked into anything he shouldn't, but I do hope he will not feel too out of place.  He never has before, and I trust the counselors to work their magic with this diverse group of city vs. country kids.  However, I noticed at check in that Matthew was one of the few to give a firm handshake to the adults he encountered who were doing paperwork, and he looked them straight in the eye and was conversational with everyone...something that a year ago he would have struggled more with.

I laughed as we had barely reached the local gas station before heading to the highway for the long drive home when one by one the remaining Team LaJoy members called out from the back seats, "I already miss Matthew!"...and..."Who will tease me on the drive home?"

One reason I love working the homeschool shows is that I encounter some pretty amazing moms who never fail to help me grow in new ways, too.  I had the privilege to speak with a mom whose 16 year old son functions at about 4th grade level, and her attitude about meeting him where he is at and helping him become who God intends for him to be...NOT society...was so uplifting.  We talked for over an hour (and yes, she ended up purchasing from me! Haha!).

Another mom who has homeschooled 14 years stood and talked for quite a while as well, and she brought up the socialization issue and the gap we are now starting to notice more ourselves.  Having graduated two and having two more not far behind, she gave me the benefit of her experience, or better yet her children's wisdom.  She explained to me that what was happening was normal, and that her fears were assuaged when her own kids reminded her that they got along fine with adults and younger kids, and actually got along fine with kids their own age as well, they just didn't care to go through all the "junk" that comes with teen life and preferred the company of older folks.  When she voiced concern they told her, "Mom, this only lasts for 3 or 4 years, then everyone is out in the adult world and becomes friends with whoever they want without worrying about age.  We're just starting that early and everyone else will catch up.  Don't worry, we aren't missing anything."  As they are now in their mid-twenties, she said she sees how they were perfectly correct, and she was worrying far less about it with her younger two teens.

Now we are settled back home, everyone is snug in their beds after an emergency rush outside in our jammies to grab our empty pool, which was sailing away in the heavy winds we are experiencing!!  If we hadn't reached it in time, our big 15' pool would have flipped right over the top of our house and flown into our neighbors yard or windows. Never a dull moment.  So it is time for bed, and hopefully I can get a decent night's sleep.  We are all growing, and I am feeling more and more how I am growing older and older as my right hip continues to give me fits as I try and lay down to sleep at night.  Managing to get four hours of sleep a night, on a good night, is doing me in, but the pain is keeping me awake.  Maybe tonight I will be too worn out to notice it.

Every day with this family of mine is such a gift.  Watching our children continue to grow and learn has been beyond anything I ever could have imagined.  Being treated so thoughtfully every day is icing on the cake, and I never, ever take it for granted.  Growing every moment, changing as time goes by...


Anonymous said...

HI Cindy,

Love the comment about Kenny being so open in his love. A true gift from God. Claire (special needs too) is the same way. I always tell her this is a gift from God. Her two sisters are very loving too, but Claire's is so open and accepting. It never fails to amaze me. We are lucky to be parents to these kids.

Robin Gillis

schnitzelbank said...

I'm certain Matthew will be okay. I teach kids from all sorts of backgrounds (including homeschoolers diving into public ed for the first time). He will gravitate towards the nice kids, ones that have something in common, perhaps he'll make friends with someone unexpected through a team-building exercise. It sounds like he is really friendly and easy-going. I'm sure he'll "roll with it." ;)

Thorsten said...