Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Onions Are For Peeling

Just when we thought things were settling down (by our standards, anyway), we learned that the biological brother of our kids had re-entered foster care.  And life got interesting, again.  Since finding this out, we've had 2 visits with him.  Then, in just a few days, he'll be coming to visit us for 2 weeks. 

Wait, what?  I'm going to have a 12 year old in my home for 2 weeks?  A 12 year old who I barely know?  A 12 year old who may have emotional issues?  Yep.  He's also a 12 year old who is biologically connected to my children and, therefore, connected to us.  He's a 12 year old who deserves to spend time with his siblings and the bonus of 2 gushy adults.  I've been wavering between total excitement and total fear, depending on the moment.  Add in a healthy dose of "How will I get everything ready in time?"  And, you've got an emotional Emily. 

So, yeah, we barely know this kid. But, the soft spots that we already have for him in our hearts are already humongous and we are excited about getting to know him. If he'll let us.  My latest favorite way to describe him is that he's an onion. Because you have to peel him back, a layer at a time. Get it? ;)  Yes, I admit it, I'm stealing that from "The Blind Side," :)

A couple of weeks ago, we met him and his case worker half-way between so the kids could have a visit.  But, we also wanted the chance to get to know him a little better before he came to visit and give him a chance to get to know us a little better, too.  I can only imagine what all this feels like on his end.  It seems unnatural to have a child in your home that you barely know.  But, in reality, it's fairly typical, in the world of foster care.

So. we walked into the bowling alley that day, hoping to get to know him a little better.  I made sure to bring my onion peelers along!  Do onion peelers exist?  I don't know, I don't eat onions.  But, apparently, I do bowl with them.

This child is shy.  Shy and guarded.  He's not quick to talk or smile or woohoo when he gets a spare.  Not with us, anyway,  It's hard not to take it personally.  But, intellectually, I know it's not about us.

When we got there, the 12 year old who had been happily talking with his case worker's son, got quiet and seemingly disinterested.  We all awkwardly hugged him and he barely responded.  This is particularly disconcerting because my kids are huggers, like me.  And, he acts like he doesn't want to hug them.  But, I know that it's just not true.  As we talked to the case worker and figured out lanes and shoe sizes; out of the corner of my eye, I saw him reach out and touch William's head.  And, then, quickly pull his hand away.  That's when I knew that "it's" in there.  The little boy that just wants to be with his little brothers and sisters is in there.  But, he doesn't know how to do it.  And, why would he?  He had an unstable beginning with an absence of unconditional love.  He had a failed adoption.  And, now he's reconnecting with siblings that he barely knows.  So, to expect him to have social skills and to be relaxed would be totally unfair.  That said, I still really want a real hug. :)

So, we bowled.  When he got a spare, I made him high five me.  I don't want to be pushy, but we're high-fivers, so he might as well get used to that now, otherwise it will be a really long 2 weeks for him.  And, for the record, it did get a smile out of him. :)  When Lizzie wandered too close to another lane, he got up, took her arm, and brought her back over.  When Antwan's fingers got too close to the ball return machine, he pulled him back.  And, when I had a split and was hoping to somehow knock all the pins down.  He and Brian followed me down the lane, giving me differing advice on how I should roll the ball.  (Boys really do like to solve problems.)  I was kind of wondering why either one of them thought I'd be able to aim the ball, but it was still pretty cute.  I effectively missed all the remaining pins, but I did have a cute moment with an onion.  (That's a weird sentence.)

But, when I sat down next to him and casually asked him how he was enjoying his summer, he shrugged his shoulders, refused eye contact, and didn't answer.  Too much direct communication, I guess.  I peeled back a couple of layers, but there are clearly many more. 

He's an onion.  Normally, I passionately dislike onions, but I can make an an exception for symbolic ones.  ;)  So, I will spend this visit, trying to get to know this kid without pressuring him to let me get to know him.  I'll try to make him feel welcomed without making him feel overwhelmed.  I'll try to back off and let him spend time with his siblings without giving the impression that I'm disinterested. 
It should be interesting.

Oh, and, yes, I'm going to try to hug him him and high-five him without just driving him crazy.  Because that's what I do.  He's just lucky that I'm not trying to dress him up in a Avenger costume.  Although he would make an awesome Hawkeye... ;)

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