Friday, August 18, 2017

Hello, Adulthood...But Not Goodbye, Childhood

During these waning days of summer, new adults are slowly blossoming and, for one, childhood is very gradually beginning its tentative wave good bye.

We have yet another full fledged adult in the house, Olesya turned 18 this past weekend!  For those who may have lost track, Angela is 19, Kenny, Matt, and Olesya are 18, and Josh is 14.

This year has been one of enormous change for Olesya, as she moves further toward viewing herself as capable and confident, while accepting she has some disabilities that may make life a wee bit harder for her.  The painful, moving conversation we had back in the spring (see post here if interested) about her growing realization that she does indeed have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has helped in surprising ways, as knowledge IS power.  Now she better understands herself and her "glitches", and no longer does that possibility have to bring about fear for the future, but can be worked with to create a new vision for a different kind of "tomorrow" that is hope filled.  She is laughing more, far happier, and interestingly is more willing to try new things where the effort of "hiding" her disability may have kept her from attempting something new for fear of being "found out".  Owning who she really is...not just the parts of her that have FASD but ALL the wonderful goodness that is Olesya...has been life giving, and I am so grateful we have always elected to handle these pieces of hard news with honesty.  There are no elephants hiding in the rooms of our home, no need to be anything other than all that we are, and no one will ever make fun of you, but will support and encourage you in every possible way.

For her birthday, we bought her shoes.  Yea, boring, yet necessary shoes!  When we visited CA for my mom's 80th birthday in June, we visited an SAS shoe store as we have always had a near impossible time fitting Olesya for any kind of shoe.  She has a double wide foot, with triangle shaped toes and one foot is over a whole size larger than the other.  On a whim I thought we should check out SAS Shoes and we found shoes that she glowed over, saying that they fit better than any shoe she had ever worn!  Though we intended on only getting one pair, as they are pricey (but my own history with this brand revealed they were incredibly well made) we ended up with TWO pairs of shoes that had her literally dancing for days.

We also attended a fine arts outdoor show in Ridgway, which we all thoroughly enjoyed, and then drove the long way home over Owl Creek Pass and past Silver Jack Reservoir as we tested out our new family member, a long desired and desperately needed 15 passenger van we have nicknamed "The Beast"!  She performed well over miles of dirt roads  At church the next day, Jane and Steve, our dear friends, attended and brought a cake to share to celebrate her special day with everyone.  All in all, it was a lovely 18th for her.

And how loved she is!!  Have you ever had one of those moments where you sat back and stared at your child, feeling so overflowing with love for who they are that you almost can't stand it?  This girl is perhaps the single most kind young lady I have ever come across, she is thoughtful, helpful, tender, funny, and has overcome so much.  I am humbled at the thought that God selected us to be the parents of ANY of our kids, and Olesya is no exception.  A gift beyond measure, my prayer for her is that as time moves on, she sees herself for all that she is.  Having come to us with almost no self-esteem, perceiving herself as absolutely "stupid", giving in to everyone and anyone solely to be accepted, Olesya is remarkably resilient, learning and growing in ways she never thought possible. That we got to spend her 18th birthday with her and the past 7 years is a total gift, that we have watched her begin to truly flourish is beyond words.  I love you, sweetie!!

 Speaking with her on her birthday, I asked her if she felt 18, if life felt different knowing she was now a legal adult.  She quietly responded that most days she felt about 15 or so, some days 17, but never really 18.  And she was so grateful that she has been allowed the time to be "Daddy's little girl" and to be a kid a little longer.  Folks often have no idea how much children adopted at older ages yearn to hang on to a childhood they feel was finally allowed them, and how hard it can sometimes be to move into the future having not been quite filled up.

Imagine really having a family for only 7 years by the time you are 18 or 19, as in Angela's case, and everyone already pushing you out the door, and asking when you are leaving home!  My goodness, the first three years were spent learning how to adequately function in a new language!  It was spent learning everything preschoolers were taught, for make no mistake of it, orphanage life in the former Soviet Union is far closer in relationship to a prison than a day care.  As I have witnessed many families with older adoptees fall apart over the past couple of years, I will fight to the death for my kids to have what they need, regardless of what others think about it.  I fully expect that some of our kids will easily live at home until they are in their mid-twenties, soaking up all they didn't get when younger, and helping them move on when they finally feel ready and have had their fill of family life.  There will come a time when they will be anxious to reach out into the wider world, but for now they need something very different and it is our job to provide that security while they continue to mature and grow fully into the amazing people I know them to be.

Then, there is Josh who is working his way toward leaving childhood behind, walking confidently toward adulthood.  Today was a day that could have a mom feeling a little weepy, as this is what I saw him preparing to get rid of:

Pooh, abandoned along with other stuffies being prepared to donate.  Childhood staring me in the face, as his deep voice replies, "Yea, I think I am getting rid of these now."  and yet I laugh inwardly as I know without question that if I tried to take his blankies from him, I would be threatened with death!  Haha, baby steps into adulthood, right?

Then, behind him, tucked into the corner of his bed where he has lived for 18 years, Matthew still has his beloved Froggie, the very first item I ever bought any of my children prior to becoming a mom.  Froggie will never leave, Froggie is a symbol of longed for family, of children dreamed of yet not found.  For Matt, Froggie isn't something he "needs", but it is the sole nod to his childhood, and the recognition that everyone should remain young at heart.

Kids AND adults need to recognize the power of a well enjoyed childhood, we need to value play more, we need to stop telling kids to "grow up" when, in fact, they are often acting appropriately their age and should not be expected to live as if they are 40 year olds weighed down with bills and choices that can't be easily changed.  I am not advocating for endless adolescence, what I am saying is that childhood really, really matters, and I know better than some just how important it can be.  When you parent kids whose childhoods began at 11 or 12 years old, it is very clear that a lot of damage can be done when developmental stages aren't fully experienced, and that does NOT lead to successful, happy adults.


Thandi said...

I thought we had lost you. Thank you for coming back. I love your children so much and am so glad they are finding THEMselves too. Even if that path has some hurdles.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see your beautiful, handsome young adults and to read of the love and support they get from each other and from their parents. You are right when you say no one who hasn't adopted older children understands the sometimes hidden "disabilities" . Others never see the things our kids struggle with, as the kids can present well enough in public. In our case, our two who came home at ten and eleven years are still catching up, each in their own, unique ways. It's difficult being the mom that no one understands and often is blamed for any being overly protective and strict because my two were not ready for the same experiences as peers. Others somehow forget that they had their kids since birth (also had three of those and one adopted as a newborn), and some of our kids come to us after well over half their childhoods. But oh, the hard won victories, as you describe in your own kids! I'm very proud of my older bio kids and all they've accomplished and the hearts they have for people. But knowing all my younger daughters went through to get to where they are, I'm extremelly proud of the emotional work they've had to do to heal and to be catching up in life, as they are.

Anonymous said...

Not meaning to hide from you. That was posted by Nancy in Iowa. I still enjoy reading about your kids/young adults. Mine with the continued struggles are nearly 23 and 21, yet nowhere near that emotional or "practical" age. Practical, meaning socially they function all right, but figuring out how to navigate the world of rent paying, deadlines, buying decisions and banking...they're still learning. Others would say, as I already know from six other kids leaving home after graduation, it's typical that kids need to learn those things when they leave home. But as you know, saying our kids aren't typical is not being critical, judgemental, or negative about our kids who came late to our rodeo! That's very hard for others to understand, especially when our kids need help with things others believe they can handle and that I'm just hovering and not able to let go. They're both away from home now, have been for two and and halfyears and one year. We're all getting there, and Mom is doing well, too!

Dianne Miller said...

Cindy--Thank you for your sharing and educating us on your family highs and lows. We love you all and are glad to be close enough to share in those highs and lows. We are always here for all of you. I'm so glad that God led you to Shepherd of the Valley! I absolutely LOVE your writing style. Keep at it.....Dianne