What were we talking about?
Last night was Sporty's end of the year concert at school. My husband and I gathered in the cafeteria with all of the other parents to watch the elementary school band perform for us. It was quite a show and certainly exceeded our expectations. We weren't sure what to expect to be quite honest. I heard a lot of "Hot Cross Buns" and "Let's Go Band" going on in the family room, but wasn't sure how this would come together with scores of other children, a disproportionately large number who chose to play the clarinet this year. Anyway, it was a great performance and I was so proud of all that Sporty has accomplished over the past year and a half. Standing there watching him play, recapping all that has transpired since he joined our family, my heart overflowed with gratefulness and joy. My mom would have loved to have been there, as she was a big fan of school bands, and I silently prayed to God during the concert that if was at all possible, she could see what was happening. It was a wonderful evening and we were looking forward to taking Sporty out for a surprise treat afterward.
But then it happened.
The show was over and instead of coming to join us so we could lavish praises on him, Sporty quickly headed for the exit. While other families met up and departed together, it was clear he was uncomfortable in this environment. I had noticed this unease before in his school setting, but brushed it off as normal tween behavior and kids not wanting their parents around. But this was different. I noticed this unease did not happen in any other setting. Not on the soccer field, playground, pool, out in the neighborhood, or any other place except school. He always wants me around. In fact, he usually wants to hold my hand or walk arm-in-arm when we are out. What is it about the school setting that is so different from all others? Anyway, Sporty headed out the door and I followed behind him, probably feeling hurt and wearing a not-so-happy-expression. I stopped him and as I was letting him know I found it rude for him to walk away from his family when we were there to see him play, I realized we were standing next to another Ethiopian family...only they all looked alike. Ethiopian parents and Ethiopian children. Then behind us, a Sudanese family. Sudanese parents and Sudanese children. Nothing about the appearance of these other family units would make anyone take a second look. But our family? Perhaps we get more second looks than I would like to believe.
We are extremely fortunate to live in a globally diverse area. Over one hundred countries are represented in our elementary school. Everyone gets along and plays nicely together. Our children are exposed to other cultures, countries, and religions literally right outside of our doorstep. However, I am beginning to see that even in a wonderfully diverse macro-environment, our children still realize there is something different about them, about our family. And that is not only OK, but extremely healthy to communicate so openly about these differences and more importantly how they make us all feel. Although the conversation made me sad because my child felt sadness, more than anything I was thankful that he loved me enough and felt safe and secure and comfortable to share how he truly feels.
Back on our deck, when he was done talking, I thanked him for letting me know how he felt. I reassured him that all of those emotions and feelings are normal and he is entitled to have them, feel them, and express them. I also reiterated a previous discussion that we had by reminding him that at no time does he ever have to tell anyone details about his personal life that he would rather not disclose. Saying something like, "Thank you for asking, but that is personal and I don't want to talk about that right now" is a perfectly acceptable response to anyone. He is free to share what he wants, with whom he wants, when he wants. Now or never. I let him know how proud we are to be his parents and that God brought our family together through adoption. I tried to communicate that I understood how me might be feeling and encouraged him to talk whenever he felt the need. I again silently praised God for blessing us in ways I could have never imagined and once again my heart overflowed.
Sporty even felt the need to make a joke after our more serious conversation. "You know, mom. Sometimes I am embarrassed too....because you are shorter than me and people will make fun of me because my mom is short." ....and just when I thought I had closed the chapter on short jokes in my life, God reminded me that he also has a sense of humor.
While we were sitting on the back deck, the following verses from Isaiah 58 were running through my mind. It was as if God was reminding me that He is never far away, yet always walking with us. A welcomed indication from a God who recognizes that we cannot completely grasp the reasons or the plan, but always gives us a peaceful assurance that he is indeed at the helm.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.
9 As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.