I have alluded to the reality that I have a tendency to be a bit cynical about things at times. Years of working with humans in both my professional and personal life remind me daily of just how fragile and ordinary life can be. While I find every individual's story interesting, and often provocative, I have seen and experienced too much the apathy and pain of others to have more than a jaded view of things. As an adoptive parent of older children, experience has taught me to expect the worst so that I can appreciate the surprise of something going well. (And, in case you're wondering ... no, it is not my practice to express to my children that I expect the worst in them ... I communicate expectations of the best, but prepare myself internally for the worst).
Last night Claudia and I were together in two church-related meetings. The first took place with nearly all of our teenaged kids, while the second was just the two of us plus a couple of other adults. Both meetings were really positive and encouraging, which makes me smile internally. During the second meeting I received a call on my iPhone from one of our older sons asking, "Is it OK if we go to the park?" Having learned from many years of parenting experience, you will understand that my next question was: "Sure. Who is 'we'?" He said, "Ummm. Just about all of us, and he named each of the boys in our family, plus one of our kids' friends who is pretty much living with us this summer." "OK," I said.
After the meeting, on the way home together, I said to Claudia, "Oh, yeah. That call was from Jimmy. He asked if they could all go to the park."
"Hmmm," Claudia replied. "I got a call from the girls [our fourteen-year-old daughter and her friend] that they wanted to go to the park, too. I think we should just swing by the park before we go home to see what's happening."
We have had a good summer so far with the kids who live in our home. They are getting along well together, can be trusted for periods of time with no parents in immediate line of supervision, and generally are earning a great deal of trust with their good behavior. Inwardly I began to cringe, wondering if we had reached a new negative turning point and hoping that I would not regret my decision to tell them they could go to the park together.
In years past, especially three years ago after having moved to our "new" community and with several of the older children living in our home at that time, any of their forays into the community were met with some new challenge. Negative peer influences, physical assaults, alcohol and drug experimentation ... we were never sure what would happen, but we always knew something negative would happen.
As we rounded to corner to the park, I was subconsciously chafing within. Just how disillusioned and disappointed would I be this time?
Before I could make out the figures in the distance (it was dusk and my middle-aged eyes aren't what they used to be), Claudia said in approbation. "Well, will you look at that? Our family is playing baseball together!"
With the exception of our sixteen-year-old daughter (who is home for a few days from her boyfriend's family's house), all of our children were at the baseball field. There were enough boys to fill the outfield and bases, as well as allowing a pitcher and a batter. In the stands were the two girls in what appeared to be a cheerleader-like stance. They were not arguing, taunting or otherwise disturbing one another. They were, I kid you not, playing baseball together. What could be more all-American and "normal" than that? And who else in our community has the personnel resources under roof to accomplish such a feat without even calling friends?
I returned home with a glow in my heart, my cynicism for the moment melting in a pool of emotional warmth. A few minutes later they returned home as the summer darkness was closing in. Seeing fourteen-year-old Leon, I said, "Hey, it looked like you guys were having a lot of fun. You even had a couple of cheerleaders out there."
He glanced at me impassively and without missing a beat responded, "Well, I think they were doing my texting than cheerleading out there."
So maybe I'm not the only cynic in our family, but every once in a while everyone, even those of us predisposed to negativity, enjoy a surprise.