It is 11:00 PM Central Asian Time, and I am alone in my bedroom for the first night in over 2 weeks. The boys are trying to get to sleep after a long and pretty uneventful day filled with school work, a trip to the store and not much else. We had a mini-meltdown tonight, one I had seen slowly building and that I am glad happened, but it still brings tears to my eyes.
Matthew is a 10 year old little boy. He is capable of acting very much his age...typically boyish in every regard. Then there is the other Matthew who is a very old soul, interested in the deeper things of life, pondering much and often saying little. He is my most emotionally connected in many ways and yet my quietest and least demonstrative.
Tonight I corrected him for some minor behavioral infraction. I think it had something to do with taking a favorite pillow before his brothers got a chance to claim it, something silly and inconsequential really. He melted, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. The face crumpled up, the sobs were heaved, and we went into my bedroom to calm down.
He is just on Change Overload. So much feels uncomfortable, so much is odd, I compared it to the way I felt every year on the first day of school. I hated it. Period. I knew that about 2 weeks in I would have found my place, at least for the moment, and all would settle down but I hated getting to that place.
He said he has a lump in his chest and he feels like he wants to cry at strange moments. He said he doesn't understand it, that he is scared and doesn't even know what he is scared of. He admitted he is not sure where his place will be in the family, but quickly also said that he thinks the girls are perfect for us and he is glad we did it...further confusing him I think. He does so obviously love being with them both, I haven't seen him laugh and giggle so much since our friends moved to Chicago! We talked about how often we can experience multiple emotions over a situation, about how everyone is going to be going through a lot of stress as we all figure out what our family will look like and feel like. I encouraged him to talk about it anytime he felt it building up or had concerns...or just needed to be reassured that his place was safe and he was OK. He grinned and said he guessed he knew that, but couldn't really understand why he felt so upset inside.
I then whispered to him "I know why." and he looked at me a bit perplexed and I said "I feel the exact same way!". "You do?" he said. "Yup!" I replied and I proceeded to rattle off all the changes in MY life the last 12 months, how they all sort of built on one another and you get more and more insecure and uncomfortable.
Then we reminisced about how it felt to bring Joshua into our lives, how HARD that had been and how our lives had been turned upside down by that for a couple of years. I reminded him of the special times he and I would have when I would take him out for an ice cream or hot chocolate so we could be alone. Eventually, it all turned out OK and I asked if he could imagine not having Joshie around. He gave me that little melting look we all seem to have when talking about Josh as he admitted he couldn't think of our life without him.
We moved on to when we added Kenny and what a stinker he was in Almaty before we came home, mad as could be because we weren't buying him everything he wanted including a set of binoculars, and how Salta and Ayana had to sit him down and set him straight about how he was acting. Big grin that time as Matthew remembered and we giggled a little...and realized we couldn't imagine life without Kenny either.
I told him that it would be the same with the girls, that at first I totally expected it to feel like there were 2 female strangers in our house but that eventually we would all be molded by God into a family that we couldn't imagine being any different, but it takes time and we needed to allow that time to work it's magic. I asked if he had regrets about us being here, about adopting the girls, about adding more children to our family. He stopped for a moment and said "No, I really don't and I think they were definitely the right ones to add. I guess it all just feels weird and I wish it didn't. They ARE fun and they ARE really, really nice. You picked good ones. I wish we could be 6 months ahead and we were all just a normal family again."
I brought up homeschool and said "Do you remember what that first 3 or 4 weeks felt like? How strange it all was and how you cried once and we talked about it all and you still wanted to do it even though it felt weird? Would you rather go back to public school now or stay with homeschool?" he quickly jumped to answer "No way...I LOVE homeschooling, it is way better!". I said "Well think of that when you start feeling uncomfortable and scared about the girls and all the changes. To get to the good stuff, sometimes you have to face things that are scary and are hard. But just because something is hard, doesn't mean you don't do it. That is Team LaJoy's motto, right?". "Right!" he said as he wiped the remainder of his tears away.
He padded off to bed quietly after a couple of long hugs.
My dear, dear children. My first son whose place has been taken not once but twice and who has handled it with such grace and kindness. Of all the kids, he has lived through it all, remembers the challenges that came with building Team LaJoy, and has been responsible in so many ways for us all being who we are and doesn't even realize the impact he has had in helping his new siblings settle in. This year has been very, very hard on him. Believe me, if I felt we had not been at a serious crossroads with him, homeschooling was the last thing on the agenda for us. I was writing someone else this evening and saying the same thing about my ministry classes, not understanding at all how God decides THIS is the time to do something in particular.
But in hindsight I do see how my year's worth of study and classes strengthened me and gave me insight for this trip, I have handled things very differently because of it. Having a taste of homeschooling has helped me enormously to gain courage to begin working with the girls for the remainder of this year and the summer. It also provided me with some serious one on one time with Matthew prior to all of this, which no doubt has helped deepen our relationship and provide him with a stronger sense that all will be OK.
We adoptive parents and families often don't talk about the butterflies that live in the pit of our stomachs for a very long time, or about how hard we have to work at keeping things as stable as we can while all sorts of rearranging is happening in our families. We are very good at having compassion for our newly adopted children, but do a very poor job of cutting ourselves and our family slack. We are so concerned about the need of the new one, we forget to acknowledge our OWN insecurities and fears, and sadly it seems we have no choice due to the judgment of others who criticize and are quickly to say "Well isn't this what you wanted? You had a choice you know and should have been happy with what you had and stopped there." We are not given permission to feel all that comes with adoption...the very real fears, the valid concerns, the highs are definitely high and everyone wants to join us there but not too many want to walk through the lows with us. For some reason, our feelings are supposed to be left at the door.
I asked Matthew if he honestly thought we should have stayed with just the 3 boys because we were very happy and all was good. He quietly looked up at me and said "No mom, because Angela and Olesya need us...and I think even if they can't really say it yet that they love us already. We needed to come get them.". Thank you Matthew, I know that was from your heart and you would have been honest if you felt otherwise. But it sure isn't easy to uproot your life yet again. I wish it were simpler, that transitions happened quickly and we could snap our fingers and all feel content and cohesive. It doesn't work that way, and we all grow and learn along the way so I wouldn't want to miss it. But I am glad we are done, really, really done this time. I didn't want to go through this 4 different times for 5 children. I am glad we did it, OH so glad, but 11 years ago if you had asked me as we were knee deep in paperwork and struggles over Matthew's adoption I would have laughed so hard...and then sobbed a river if you had told me I was going to have to through all of this 4 times.
It is not easy on the adopted children, but it is not easy on ANYONE. The older the child, the harder it is...it isn't instant infatuation as it is with infants, it is a more gentle and slow growing attachment. You are trying to get to know a fully formed human being who has been functioning on their own for years without your involvement. There are unknown quirks, gifts, oddities, likes and dislikes. There is an entire history on both sides that is a mystery...ours to them and theirs to ours. Language barriers make it harder to share those histories at first, and it takes time to build up a storehouse of shared experiences to draw on to create a feeling of closeness and intimacy.
I don't know every freckle and where every scar came from...and I might not even ever see them all with children of this age and modesty issues. That hurts, it is a loss and a reminder of all that has passed without my arms wrapped around them. There are events that molded them, small and big, of which we are not privy to. There are moments when they were changed forever, and I can't stop those things from having happened, despite how much I might very well wish I could.
Yet the changes continue, the bond gradually strengthens. Today we got a call from Irina asking if we were all right. Evidently Angela had heard a rumor at the boarding school that an American family adopting here in Petro had been in a car accident, and she begged to use a phone to call and check to see if we were safe. We can't figure out where that rumor came from and it may have been a mean prank from one of the kids at the orphanage, but Angela's concern for us showed me a lot. It is a beginning, it is a message to me that despite her inability to voice things at this stage in the game, she cares...she really does.
So we are all here, soon all 7 of us again, willingly walking through the fear and worry in order to reach for the love we hope will be awaiting us at the end of the journey. It will sure have been hard earned, it will not have come without a cost, it will be well worth it all.
Ch-ch-ch-changes. It has been an incredible year filled with them. Nothing ever stays the same, does it? Glad we have God to lean on when it all seems a little too overwhelming. Without God's incredible presence, our family literally would not exist, for there is NO WAY Dominick or I could ever do this on our own. It would be too terrifying. I have a love-hate relationship with change. But I do know that love it or hate it, change is the one constant in all of our lives.