This has been a unique summer for Matthew, one in which he has had some wonderful opportunities as he gets ready to enter his senior year. Though we know he still has one year to go, Matt really is a man in every sense of the word these days, and a delightful one at that.
Dropping him off at the airport this morning, his bag of Fritos (Ok, that sort of negates that "man" thing! Haha!) and carry-on in hand, I think I was far more excited for this latest adventure than he was!
Recently, Matt applied for and was accepted to be on the Rocky Mountain Region Cadet Advisory Council for Civil Air Patrol. This is a Cadet run three person advisory board for the five state Rocky Mountain Region, and is quite an honor. Matt had to submit an essay with several ideas he hoped to see implemented in the Region, and he was thrilled when he was invited to be a part of the Council. What he wasn't aware of at the time was that he would then be offered an all expenses paid trip to the Civil Air Patrol National Convention in Nashville, TN this weekend!
And what did he do when he learned of his new position? Nothing. Nothing at all.
There was no boasting, no need to point out the honor to others, just an inner sense of accomplishment and only explained what was going on in his Squadron when it became necessary. In a house full of many extroverts, Matt is our most introverted. He can be hard to read, which can sometimes make you wonder what excites him, what motives him. What he is, is humble...something that you rarely find in another human being to this degree. He is intrinsically self-motivated and has little need for outward recognition, though I am sure at moments he appreciates it like everyone else. He remains cool, calm and collected regardless of the situation.
Upon completing the reading of David Brook's "The Road to Character" at the end of last school year, a book I am now very slowly working through with all the other kids, Matt remarked that he learned a lot about what true character looked like and how best to develop it, and I noticed that this hugely impacted his spiritual life. Somehow, the message came through in reading about a wide variety of famous folk who all struggled against their lesser selves, that developing self-awareness and willingly subjugating yourself to God (in whatever form that was understood) was a common denominator. He identifies quite firmly with his Christian faith, and told me on the drive home from his last year at camp this summer that he realizes as an adult he will always need to attend to his spiritual self as he has the capacity to be colder and more distant than some might be, that God calls him to be a more intentionally loving person and he likes the reminder that practicing his faith brings to work on himself regularly, to bring his better self to the forefront.
He is easing his way gently into adulthood, and it is so sweet to watch. He has plans laid out for this coming year, ambitious ones. I am sure that in his methodical, quiet way he will accomplish all he sets out to do.
I am reminded of a particular line from a Jackson Browne song, Fountain of Sorrow. Though it relates to something else in the song, it reminds me of where all our kids are:
I'm just one or two years, and a couple of changes behind you...
Our other three 17 and 18 year olds are on a different trajectory. They came home much older, had so much to catch up on, so much to work through, and so much more to challenge them. Yet they are all slowly working their way toward adulthood as well, perhaps not at the pace others think they ought, but nevertheless, they will find their way in their own time. Matt may be leading the way, despite technically being our middle child, but we all see the growth and maturity steadily happening in Olesya, Kenny and Angela. A couple of years from now, we will see ever more blossoming, wings unfolding, and wind catching beneath them leading them each into worlds unknown. What we can best offer them all now is the gift of time...time for those changes to occur, time to reach backwards toward childhood as often as is necessary, and time to discover who they are. There is no rush, they'll be fine, and they will do just as interesting and valuable things as Matthew is doing in his chosen arenas.
As their mom, I am reminded by Matt's nature to remain calm, cool, and collected in the face of comments and nudges that they are somehow "behind". It can be hard to bite my tongue, to gently change the direction of conversations for those who are insensitive to the ways in which their seemingly benign inquiries actually touch nerves that can be, in any given moment, quite raw. Graciousness is something I need to work on. I am always stunned how crass some people can be in assuming they understand the needs of our kids. If you have not parented a child adopted at an older age from an institution, trust me, you truly are pretty clueless about their needs, their pain and grief, and their suffering. I know this because I was once that clueless. The difference is I have never assumed I had the right or the knowledge to be able to offer my critique and advice to someone who was in the trenches and had more experience than I.
Yup...and perhaps me remembering that others are in the same place as I once was will lead to more graciousness.
I'm just one or two years, and a couple of changes behind you.
And that is perfectly OK.