Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who Do You Wish to Become?

This past week, our home has been quiet...really, really quiet.  We are down to just one child home with four others off at camp, and it has given all of us a chance to evaluate what our lives might have been like had we stopped adding to our family after Matthew arrived 13 years ago.  While I will admit how wonderful the break has been from a constantly running washer, 3 loads a day in the dishwasher, craft projects from Olesya leaving little messes all over the house, no running commentary on just about everything from Kenny, and much isn't nearly as wonderful as it is to actually experience all those things most of the time :-)  A break has been nice, though, as it has allowed me time to get some detail oriented work done for the coming school year, and it has given us time alone with Matthew, which is special when we get one on one time with any of the kids, not just Matt.

This comes at an important time for Matt, and I can sense that.  He is in the process of deciding exactly who he wants to be in the world.  I am not talking about careers, I am talking about character.  Does he want to be one to chase the almighty dollar?  What will he value?  What parts of himself is he content with, and what parts does he want to tweak?  He is in a great head space right now, with little distractions around us, to talk openly and comfortably about such things.

Tonight after Dominick went to bed, Matt went and grabbed his big old blanket to wrap around himself as we sat at the kitchen table and talked for two hours.  He shared with me some of the music that he liked that was new to him at camp, some of it Jason Mraz whom I have heard a little of and liked, but not had time to listen much to.  We sat there huddle over his iPad, talking about the meaning of the lyrics, the style, and how similar we are in our musical tastes.

Kenny and Angela are my easy talkers, the ones who are passionate in their beliefs, and deeply engaged by many issues.  They wear their hearts on their sleeves and will immediately jump headlong into mind boggling conversations at levels often explored more in college classes...or psychologist's they try to make sense of the world around them.  Matt, on the other hand, is quieter, less outwardly passionate, and he lives a more quietly introspective life of the mind.

Tonight I asked him questions about who he thought he was growing into, and what he thought of himself.  He said that so far, for the most part, he liked himself a lot and thought he was an "OK" kind of kid who worked hard and tried to do the right thing most of the time.  He said he wished he could more easily connect with the thoughts he had at camp throughout the year, because he really felt God at those times, but that he realized that was a unique setting and not possible to recreate all year long.  However, he said he was always reminded at camp that he could go either way with his decisions, he could be selfish or he could be generous of spirit, and he talked about how hard it was sometimes to fight the selfish side.  With uncanny wisdom for his age, he spoke about chasing things like new cars, new stereos, bigger and better houses, etc. and how he already knew that the "cool factor" of those things wears off quickly, and you're always left wanting more.  He said he doesn't want to spend his life never being satisfied because he hasn't worked on the more important parts of himself so that he doesn't have the need to chase "stuff".  I was so touched by his observations, and realized there is a lot going on inside that young man's brain right now.

Interestingly, when I asked him what words he would hope people would use to describe him one day, he stopped to think for a moment, and then said, "Most important to me is that people could say I am someone they can always count on, that I am dependable.  I really don't like it when you can't count on others.  I want my friends and family to see me as being strong and capable, that they can lean on me.  I think a real man gives that sense of being strong and able to do things.  I like that a lot about Dad." He stopped for a moment, then added,"And I think I want people to see me as a person who cares about things and is kind.  Sometimes, I am not as kind or thoughtful as I could be, not because I don't want to be, but because I just don't think about other people the way I should.  But what I really want, and don't laugh at me mom, is I want to be seen as influential.  Wait, that's not the right word, what I mean is I want people to think  I am wise, so they listen to me.  Maybe that's the same thing, maybe not. I don't want to be thought of as silly or stupid.  I want be wise enough that other people will be able to trust my judgment."

I don't think that at 14 years old I could have spoken as well about who I wanted to become when I grew up.  I had some vague ideas, but character was not something I gave a lot of thought to.

There is a lot of blossoming going on around our home these days.  Kenny is showing signs of maturing and is stepping up in small but noticeable ways to take on small responsibilities without being asked.  Angela is thinking a lot about what her goals might be as she grows into adulthood, and Olesya is gradually beginning to catch herself when she is less centered and unfocused, and is able to self-correct.  Joshua has always been a little old man in a kid's body, and though he still needs blankie to help him feel safe and secure, he is growing taller and more confident with each passing day.  In the next couple of weeks, he'll join the big kids in volleyball, a sort of Rite of Passage around here.

It is such fun to see the kids stretch a little and grow.  Watching their passions develop, or seeing them test the waters of a variety of things in an effort to discover those passions is a real gift for any parent.  There is, of course, a little sadness at seeing the youngsters disappear, but unlike some I have never felt all that melancholy over it, as we may be losing the little kid but we are gaining a new and exciting older child with each developmental marker they pass.  We are hitting them at a slower rate, that's for sure, but in some areas, I think they are well ahead of the game in many ways.  For all the developmental delays that challenge our family, and as much of an oxymoron as this might sound like, they are advanced in maturity, and they sure know how to love with all of their hearts.

Matt could barely contain the enormous grin that spread across his face this evening as we spoke via Skype with his new AutoCAD drafting teacher.  As his elective this year, and despite a very heavy academic schedule, Matthew decided to enroll in a beginning AutoCAD course taught as a distance learning course by a licensed teacher in Florida who teaches both in a public high school, and for a local college.  This is an amazing opportunity for him to try out something he might really grow to love, and at a very affordable cost.  He will have one on one interaction, and will have to be self-directed to move through the course and develop a portfolio of his work.  As we sat together watching the screen being controlled by his teacher who was explaining to both of us the mechanics of how the course would work, he leaned over and whispered to me, "I can't wait to get started, I have wanted to do this all my life!"  His teacher is SUPER, and is very personable and knowledgeable about the subject, injecting his enthusiasm into his teaching as he said several times, "Now watch this, this is so cool you won't believe it!" and a flat drawing became three dimensional right before our eyes.  This appeared to me to be the perfect marriage of motivated student and exciting educator, and I can't wait to see what comes of it this year for Matt!

Angela is talking about photography and design, Joshua wants to explore shooting sports, Kenny is not quite certain what new direction he might seek but I have no doubt something will tickle his fancy eventually...he does know that when he is able, he wants to take Philosophy, but I'd really like to see him find himself a little more.  Olesya is exploring more and more in the kitchen, playing around but lately taking over complete meal prep, and we found a great web site for her to work with that walks you through the basics.

Who will they become?  Each day brings a new surprise, a new reason to celebrate and appreciate the unique young people we get to live with.  Though none of them are in a mad hurry to grow up, they are reaching out into the world and testing the waters. Our job is to give them a boost now and then, and help them regroup and understand what their exploration is all about.  This phase in child rearing is definitely different, but equally wonderful.

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