Saturday, September 16, 2006

Change Is In the Air

Yesterday we brought our seventeen-year-old son Mike home. "To bring a child home" is a phrase that adoption afficionados are familiar with. Typically it refers to the culmination of the adoption journey when "everything else" is done. "Everything else" includes the home study process (which, depending upon the agency in question, could be a cumbersome, length, irritating process), the selection process (which can take an unduly amount of time as potential parents/families are matched with child/children), the initial meeting(s) and consultations with social workers and others. Finally, when the process is over the adoptive parent(s) bring(s) "the child home." As we use the phrase in regard to Mike, however, it means we are bringing Mike home one more time, another chapter in a long saga of life which promises many forthcoming lines, paragraphs and chapters. In fifty or more years the final work will be quite something.

But, anyway, yesterday Mike graduated from Camp Thistledew, a program of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. He was one of seven young men ranging in age from 13 to 17 (Mike was the oldest in his group) whom we listened to yesterday as they gave their "graduation speech" and told us what they were "leaving behind" and what they were "taking with them" as they departed. Mike left behind "blaming others" and took with him "accepting responsibility." It was a happy day for the seven who completed the three-month program; change was in the air. The image you see on this blog is a picture of Mike as we left Thistledew (he's actually waving goodbye, not flashing a profane gesture).

As if paralleling in nature what was occurring behaviorally and emotionally, northern Minnesota is aflame the irridescent autumnal hues. In the mixed-wood forests of this part of the state the coniferous greens provide a lush backdrop for the glories of God's creation. Resplendent maples with their fiery red glow, quaking aspens glowing yellow and substantial oaks adorned in rich pumpkin surrounded us on our travels home yesterday. A warm afternoon (temperatures in the 80s), atypical of mid-September in this part of the world, made our seven-hour ride home a relatively pleasant one.

Within about two hours Mike began to challenge our values, our parenting approach and what he anticipated to be the strictures of freedom in our home. I said virtually nothing, acceding to the Claudia the conflict-ridden conversation. She maintained an impressive self-differentiated stance as Mike momentarily stepped back into time, picking up that which he had "left behind." Within an hour or so, his anxieties seemingly assuaged, we settled in for a positive return home.

Like parents the world round, we cannot predict the future. If our predictions are based upon history our outlook must be abysmal as we batten down and await the inevitable pain of one more series of failures. If however, we can maintain our stability in the midst of rage, blame and accusation we (Claudia and I) will make it. Our other children will probably make it. And Mike may make it. My optimism is tempered with reality, and I am learning more than ever the value of the Serenity Prayer.

My preferred future would be to see our situation as the seasons that surround us. I would prefer to see the next months as ones of continual, colorful opportunity for change. Even as the leaves of the trees change from the monotonous summer greens to a rich, variegated natural box of Crayons, I hope for a fall with variety climaxed by the quiet, enduring sameness of November. I crave those days of early winter where little changes, where each person goes about their daily responsibilities without trauma and surprise. Even in the quietude of winter there are moments of glorious contentment ... when the snow flies, the wind blows and schools and workplace close early, as commuters slog home through the elements, as family members stay home with no place to go. I see, and only through the eyes of faith, a day of stability for Mike, a day like like mid-April when the warm spring breezes coax into life the leaves of trees and sprigs of grass, a day when growth and maturity are as natural and as pleasant as the cycles of nature.

Change is in the air. The trees are changing. The days are growing shorter. Mike has successfully completed his program and is back home. He is invested at this moment in making progress. We are settled and happy. And for today this is enough.

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