Friday, September 26, 2008

A Little Brotherly Affection ... And Some Fatherly Attention

I mentioned earlier this week that Claudia is out of town for several days on work-related business, so things at home are a bit different. She is the law-giver, so things are a bit freer here than often is the case. I am the nurturer, so it is not difficult for me to let some things go. Fortunately, between the two of us our kids benefit from the best of both worlds, structure and freedom.

Usually I am also gone before the kids are getting ready for school. I am either walking or at the office, both of which I prefer to initiate early in the day. Today is my day off, though, so there's a different feeling in the air (which I will soon embrace as I take our dog Gizmo for a walk in the fresh new day). These past few days have allowed me the luxury of awakening our kids (those who don't do it on their own) and having some first-thing-in-the-morning time with them. It has been really quite pleasant. I am reminded of the pleasures that stay-at home parents can experience. (I know there are drawbacks, too, to that role, but the joy of being able to awaken your children and see them off to school with plenty of hugs and kisses is a nurturer's delight).

Wilson (our youngest) has been taking Claudia's spot in the bed at night. He is a quiet sleeper, and I scarcely know he is there. In the morning he is a charming presence, his capacious smile filling up his burnished tan face, lighting up his crescent-shaped dark eyes. He smiles a toothless grin (he's going to the orthodontist soon to see about his dental challenges) and slowly ebbs into the morning.

As Wilson is stretching into awareness our older son Ricardo (14) comes into the bedroom to ask a question, and seeing Wilson stretching beneath the blankets, takes up a temporary residence there himself. Ricardo, who is quite reserved by personality, enjoys periodic moments of affection. I say periodic because he is not a clingy, touch-feely kind of kid, but if affection is initiated (as I often do with him) it is received in a healthy way. (I continue to be surprised that of all of our kids, with the possible exception of most recent two, it is our sons who grew up in a Guatemalan orphanage whose attachment issues are the most limited. Our kids who grew up in US foster care have fared the worst).

One of the things I value about our family is that (as far as we know) physical boundaries have never been broached, and unlike so many adoptive parents of older kids, we have not had to worry about sexual acting out or other inappropriate displays of physical affection. It is freeing to be able to share physical affection without the fear of sparking some past negative history.

So, this morning, after directives on my part, we begin the three-stage process of transporting kids to school. Our older kids are not quite ready, so I take Wilson and Dominyk to their elementary school first. We chat merrily on the way about weekend plans. Wilson will be staying at a friend's house tonight, and he is excitedly planning his time. Dominyk's plans are what they usually are -- time with his PCA after school and then home. We joke and banter, with paternal correction occasionally interrupting Dominyk's inappropriate word choices. Both Dominyk and Wilson ask, "So, you're going to be home after school today, right Dad?" (The past two days I have been unable to be there immediately after school because of prior commitments). "Yes," is my simple response. "Thank God," says Dominyk, and he bursts into a hallelujah-type response atypical of our stolid United Methodist ways. "Hallelujah, praise Jesus," he continues. It is over the top, as is Dominyk's personality, but I am heartened to think that my after-school presence is that valuable.

Arriving at the school I tell them with exaggerated expression how much I will miss them while they are there. Dominyk teases Wilson for a moment about how dad "loves you," and, as a parting rejoinder for Dominyk as he steps out of the car I say just loudly enough for him to think others hear: "Oh, Dominyk, I love you, too," as I make big smoochy noises with my lips. Dominyk's eyes dart furtively about the playground hoping his sixth-grade acquaintances have not heard; he sighs with relief as he sees no one looking or listening. Wilson says little as he exits the car, his diminuitive figure deftly trotting toward the school.

I return home to pick up the older kids. Our son Jimmy (16) collapses into the front seat. Our four seventh and eighth graders -- Tony (13), Leon (13), Mercedes (13) and Ricardo (14) -- are able to squeeze into the back seat of our 2000 Avalon, and this morning do so without mutual provocation. They have arrayed themselves in the best homecoming apparel they can find since tonight is their school's homecoming football game. Tony's blond hair has become black (the school colors are black and yellow), Leon's black hair has become a sparkly yellowish, Mercedes' tan skin sparkles with some kind of makeup and Ricardo's jet-black hair has been gelled to perfection.

As we near the parking of the Junior High School, I am again questioned. "You'll be home after school, right, Dad?" "Umm, yes," is my response, expecting some form of contemptuous junior high disdain. "Good," is their unified response. "It matters that much to you?" I ask the group, especially the junior high kids in the back seat. "Well, yeah," is their sophisticated affirmation.

What a nice morning it has been. So few of our mornings are this way that to have two in a row like this is a sheer blessing from God.

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