Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dad Gets a Break

"Teenagers are awful!"

"I can't wait for them to get out of the house."

"You poor thing, 4 teens so close together?  You have my sympathies."

Almost daily I hear some sort of comment about how terrible the teen years are, about how awful it must be to be me and be stuck at home with so many kids so close in age and all hitting puberty at the same time.  Often it is said right in front of the kids, which infuriates me, and it is a cultural bias I simply don't buy into, and decided years earlier to ignore.

I have come to think of it as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy...if you choose to think the teen years are awful, they will be.
How often have I replied back, "Oh man, these are the BEST years!  Our kids are my favorite people to be with, I am so blessed to be their mom."...and I make sure to say it loud enough that if the kids are around, they hear me affirming my joy at their presence in my life.  I am not "stuck" with them every day, I am privileged enough to be able to BE with them every day!  

Dominick feels the same way, though he admitted to me that while I was gone last week he got a good dose of how hard it is to be me these days, and he thanked me profusely for all I do that goes unnoticed so much of the time.  But that is the logistical and teaching components, it is not the interaction piece.

Dominick and "da Boys" took off for Denver for the weekend at my urging, to take a Manhood Break and simply be together and do whatever hit their fancy.  We can't really get away for a real family vacation right now, and probably not for a good year or so more, at the earliest.  He has been working so hard, as many hours as he was with two jobs and maybe more, and he is worn out completely and needed a little fun, and some real time with the kids.  So we thought a guy weekend might help all four men connect more deeply with one another, and give Dominick a chance to relax and have a little fun.  So off they went, to do exciting things like play laser tag, claw their way up climbing walls, explore two "escape rooms" which for those who have never heard of them is a new adventure type of game where they describe it as an interactive video game where you solve puzzles and look for clues to help you escape from a themed room.  Not being major sports fans, going to a game was not anything of interest to any of them, so this was a terrific Nerd Adventure Weekend for all of them, and if the photos being texted are any sign, they had a blast.

Here they are at Puzzah!, the escape room challenge they did.  Successful at Room 1!
They really don't look like anything other than young men now, do they?  All three, so mature and mom thinks they are pretty handsome, too.

Go Kenny!  He and Matt, in particular, really enjoy climbing walls.

Late afternoon burnout.

Successfully completed room #2 and reportedly with only 11 seconds to spare!  Love the Sherlock Holmes props, totally fits these guys :-)

I was at our store yesterday, filling in a little for Dominick, when one of our employees asked what Dominick was doing this weekend over in Denver.  I explained that he hadn't had much time with the kids this year, and wanted to take the boys on a weekend just to get away and be together, and that what they did wasn't really going to matter much because they'd find ways to have fun somehow.  I got a bit of an odd stare, as if wondering why in the world he'd want to do that.  Why?  Because this man adores his family, and his sons are some of his most favorite people in the world.  Now, I know this doesn't sound like a major cool thing to do, but it was planned by the boys, they researched what they wanted to do that wouldn't be too expensive, and they knew their Dad would do anything with them, solely because he loves spending time with them.

Yea, teenagers are just so hard to be with. :-(

That left the girls and I to have an at home Girls Weekend, and though it was a quiet one, it has been sweet in so many ways.  We all went to work, and the girls spent a few hours redoing shelf tags while I stocked shelves and the cooler, bagged ice, and did a little accounting work.  Major excitement, right?  Not for most, but do you know I was thanked twice for "letting" them come to work with me?  It was late afternoon, so we elected to have a rare treat out and go to an early dinner at Denny's, where we three sat and visited for an hour after having finished our meal.  Once again, we were mistaken for a foreign exchange family, and Angela explained that I was their real mom, and the young waitress said she loved their accents.  That led us to a much deeper conversation about our family.

Angela's class would be in their last year, she would be aging out, and that weighs heavily on her heart as she shared that she often thinks about the kids left behind, and what they will do with their lives.  I find it hard to think about as well, and it seems that right now I have many adoptive family friends in crisis right now, and it all just feels so hard, and I feel so fortunate that the challenges we face are manageable.  It sure is a reminder though of how far we have come, how things could just as easily go the other way, and how I will never take for granted what we have here.  Together, we have all overcome some really awful pasts, and we work diligently every single day to maintain closeness.  Sometimes, that is just not possible because hearts have been too badly broken to allow connection.

Everyone is home now, all settled and tucked in for the night.  Our regular routine starts back tomorrow, with school, volleyball, and church meetings on tap.  There is something quite precious about the ordinariness of it all.  The girls pointed out during out conversation that they love that no one in our family needs anything all that exciting to be happy, that we all have fun together doing things that might bore others, but they realize that real life is not always filled with excitement.  Angela said she really wants us to have a family "camp out" again, because she loved it in her early years home when we all slept in the same room together, telling stories in the dark and just being together. That's one reason camping is so sweet, because we are all tucked in together in the same room, giggling in the dark.  I was so touched to realize those moments meant so much to her, and though we were short changed in terms of their childhood, this was something lasting that we were able to offer to carry with her the rest of her life.  So maybe we need to plan a family camp out soon.

A new week begins, and many more hours with my "awful teens" will be thoroughly enjoyed as we all continue to learn and grow together. Time for mom to hit the hay so I can be supercharged for the morning.  And as I roll over and curl up in my blankets, I will give thanks yet again for the sweetest teens in the world, who are thoughtful, generous, hard working, and a gift to me in every possible way.  Sometimes, I can't believe how much I love them all, and how easy it is to do so.  Yes, the cute younger years are behind us, and now the adults are gradually emerging.  The coming years will be every bit as tender, every bit as wonderful as the younger years were.  How can they not be?  Team LaJoy works hard together, plays well together, and loves fiercely.  Nothing else really matters.  

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