Monday, July 09, 2007

Sometimes It's Smart Not to Be Done Early

Last week was a busy one for many of us in our family, especially our kids sixth grade and under. A week ago Sunday we (four of our kids and I) joined a group of twenty-some other kids and adults for a three-day camping adventure, so by the time we arrived home on Tuesday night, participated in the Fourth of July festivities, and then had an unstructured Thursday, it was time for the Fletcher Family Friday Fun Day already. Knowing that we had been busy and that we would be busy again Friday night and Saturday (our community's local celebration), I decided to make our outing close to home to save time and money.

We traveled eleven miles north to the Traverse des Sioux historical site, a location that marks an 1851 Treaty between Native Americans and the settling white Americans. This infamous treaty ceded all Dakota land in Minnesota to the white settlers in exchange for terms that were never fulfilled, which ultimately led to a bloody uprising in 1862. We arrived earlier than the scheduled opening time for the museum and spent those minutes walking the trails which told the story of the Treaty site and the community of Traverse des Sioux which emerged shortly thereafter. At its peak it was a community of more than 70 buildings, including a number of saloons, hotels and churches. In less than twenty years it was no more. The timing makes me think of our trip, because sometimes it's smart not to be done early.

At least one of the kids with me was especially cranky, perhaps due to the heat and humidity, but probably due to his natural preference for conflict and a generally irritable disposition. He walked on ahead of us most of the time, a decision on his part for which we were all quietly grateful. Perhaps you can identify the child in question by glancing at the picture above (his facial features should help you make the decision).

On the walk Dominyk spotted several butterflies and moths, including the one that lighted upon his palm for this picture. This picture is one of my favorite; I need to tell you why. Over the years Dominyk has been a most challenging child to me personally. Although he has a sweet disposition and a gentle heart, his excessive energy and hyperactivity have been hard for me to deal with over the past decade. His lack of impulse control has resulted in numerous scratches to cars and vans in that time period, including one occasion early on when he single-handedly at the age of three ripped out all of the gasket (is that what the stuff that helps doors fit snugly is called?) in what is now our "old van." He has caused more property damage to our home and possessions than any other one child. I should hasten to add, though, that it usually has not been done with malice. It has not been intentional and it has not been his passive way of expressing displeasure with a parental decision or direction. (We have a number of other children who have chosen to express their frustrations in those ways, typically with a huge display of threat, verbiage and anger added to the physical destruction). So, in some ways it is hard to blame him for the havoc he was wrought because much of it has been done innocently enough.

When I consider how destructive he has been over the years, and then I view this picture with his outstretched palm gently holding one of creation's most fragile living beings, a moth, I cannot help but sense some reprieve toward him in my heart. To see the joy on his face, captured in this picture, reminds me of the capabilities he has and the ways in which his life may continue to moderate in the years ahead. I have great hope that Dominyk will be able to have a relatively successful life in spite of his early months of neglect and his significant emotional and behavioral disorders.

I wonder where Dominyk would bei n his life if we had decided to "be done" with him years ago. His story is a complex one, littered with legal minutiae along the way, and it would have quiet easy for us to have simply been compliant with the initial custody decision (which returned Dominyk to birth relatives after having lived with us for nearly two years). But we contested the decision (with help from the other side of his birth family), and we have been able to "keep" Dominyk all these years. Like Traverse des Sioux, we could have been done early, but we decided to hang on.

It has been a rocky road all the way, and I know Dominyk's most challenging years may well be ahead, but at times like these I'm glad we were smart enough not to be done early.

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