“Mommy, do my smell like beef?” says a pair of breathy mauve lips and toothless grin 3 inches from my nostrils. Little tendrils of teriyaki beef jerky trails from the few chompers he still has rooted in his smile. “Hmmm…Yep. You smell a LOT like beef,” I reply with a smile. “In fact, I think I’ll call you Little Beef from now on, that’s perfect!” My Little Beef throws his head back, and laughs a full, smokey belly-laugh, and then mashes his forehead into mine and stares into my eyeballs with a grin.
This is how our day has gone (with about a 35-minute battle between Mommy and a certain Mr. Grumpy-pants who decided to grace us with his presence just before lunch). After he fell asleep this evening, I slowly crept off his bed, and knelt down at the edge, folded my hands and prayed over his deep-breathing lump of exhaustion, huddled under the blanket. I thanked God for a day full of snuggles, kisses, kindness and “listening to Mommy”, of sweet playtime, brave deep-end jumping and swimming at the pool, silly laughter and huge pools of innocent sweetness brimming in his eyes. I think I held him more today than any day thus far, either because he let me pick him up, or because he asked to be carried. I watched him go from refusing to attend his soccer team practice (he was invited to play a 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday), to agreeing to play (even without his soccer jersey and soccer shorts – an amazing feat!) and having a wonderful time while his family watched. I coached and coaxed him through his grumpy, bumpy lunch time, and helped him come out the other side without a tantrum, without completely shutting down, and able to recover into a happy, fully-functioning seven-year-old enjoying an afternoon of activities. Daddy was able to come home to a smiling youngest son, without tense overtones, and we had a completely freeing evening together as a family.
Our weekend at the beach was a weekend of fantastic bonding with siblings – some play-time learning and building of endurance for single activities. The most impressive was Wesley’s interest and patience and dedication to FISHING. 😉 We went to Lincoln City and fished off the dock at Regatta park – every. Single. Day. Sometimes twice in one day. The last time we went out – Wes fished for 3 hours straight, with no breaks and no bites. I’m really not sure how he even mustered up the determination, but the only fit we had while we were there was because we had to leave the dock! We ended up having a lite-version of a fit back at the house, and it was resolved quickly and without much fight. A few tears, but early-on breaking point and lots of hugs.
Besides fishing, Wes was able to get an experience playing inventive make-believe stories with us while we played with a Playmobil zoo/vet playset and a Lego fishing boat that Braeden had bought for him – It was very interesting to watch him go through the process of trying to figure out why we were saying silly things for animals, or prancing them around the room, but it only took about 20 minutes for him to catch on and start engaging in the creating of the story. Pretty soon, his baby panda was hungry and drinking a bottle of milk, and the doctor was giving the giraffe a walk around the carpet. Later on, he even hopped into a full bathtub in swim shorts with Braeden and played with the lego fishing boat for a good 45 minutes! It was incredible to see him explore new avenues of play. Our favorite thing to see, however, was his immense love for the beach, the sand, the water, and making sand men and sand “houses”! It was so fun to watch him play! He dug holes, built sand castles, and buried himself in sand for hours upon hours. I’m really not sure what will happen when he figures out that this was probably the only sunny weekend he will ever see on the Oregon Coast! LOL I honestly can’t remember the last time we went to the beach in the warm sunshine! It is usually raining and windy and freezing cold…Well, I’m thankful he got to enjoy a “real” beachy experience for a first time memory!
One thing I learned over the weekend (which I think is very important for adoptive parents dealing with kids from hard places, or any parent dealing with a child prone to breakdowns/meltdowns) is to watch my son carefully and always be aware of his demeanor/feelings/expressions/manifestations of what might be going on inside his head/heart. I learned that when I see some bits and pieces of behavior that make my gut say “It’s probably about time to pack up and go…” – that I shouldn’t second guess it. Because yes, he may seem okay for the next 90 minutes after that, but if I would have just packed up and left the dock when I had that impression, we could have avoided the meltdown later on. Or times when I think, “Hmmm…he seems like he’s checking out a bit” – he most likely is – or is beginning to – and if I can catch it early on and give him a hearty, healthy snack with some fruit sugars and carbs, or just simply change the activity to keep his engagement fresh – it changes his attitude entirely. I just need to listen to my first instinct – it’s usually right! 😉 And many times, that point in time won’t be an opportune time to make my exit, but it sure beats the alternative dealing with an attitude battle later on.
Changing gears – I had an interesting interaction with a nice older grandmother at the pool today – she was observing my interactions with Wes in the pool and asked if he was my son. I said, “yes! He is my son,” to which she responded, “Okay I have to ask – have you seen the show ‘This is Us’ on TV?” I happen to LOVE that show. Kris and I watch it (when we have time to watch TV alone…which means we are severely behind and I was praying she wasn’t going to blab on about an episode I haven’t seen yet). If you haven’t seen this show (and you’re an adult or a an almost-adult, because there are mature situations and some inappropriate content for younger eyes and hearts which is why our kids don’t watch it) – look it up – and watch it. This show deals with some MAJOR issues in society that people are just frankly afraid to talk about. Homosexuality, adoption, and severe weight battles are three major players. We love the screenwriting – whoever writes for this show is incredibly creative, and I have never in my life watched a television show that is as well-written as this show is. I have watched plenty of TV and movies in my lifetime, have done my time acting in them as well, and while I’m not a professional “writer” (although I thoroughly enjoy it) I can appreciate an incredibly well-written script.
ANYWAY. This nice lady proceeded to ask me questions about Wes, his birth family and whether or not we would be able to tell whether his birth mother was on drugs. Yes. It happened. She was asking from a very honest, heartfelt motivation, I could tell – so I responded kindly with generic basics – pretty much saying, “we don’t have much information, unfortunately, which is pretty typical, but he’s doing great and is such an amazing little guy!” 😉 It just reminded me (sorry all that long intro to this lady and it is such a short story) that I’ll need to think quickly on my feet many times, and be prepared with answers that are respectful both to my son, and to our process, but also to the people asking. I don’t want to belittle or shame them by the way I respond, but I also can’t divulge the backstory to my son’s life as if he isn’t sitting there on a pool noodle 10 feet away in 18″ of wading pool grinning up at us 🙂 If you’re someone who’s curious – just find tactful and respectful ways to engage in conversation. Pure motive and pure heart can go a long way. If you’re just asking to satisfy your curiosity – you probably shouldn’t ask anything more than “is that your son?” and when given a “yes” then say “He’s beautiful, you have a wonderful family!” and leave it at that. If I, as an adoptive mother, choose to engage further maybe you’ll get lucky! 🙂
Ok. It’s 10:30 and our kiddos need to be bedded down for the night. ohhhhhh…summer.