What I Like Best

Today, Alex and I met with the school counselor at Alliance Academy International, the Christian missionary school here in Quito. When Hansei first asked us to consider having Alex tested for ADD/ADHD, the main challenge was finding somewhere that would do the testing in English. My sister (who works part-time at Alliance) made some inquiries, and they graciously agreed to allow him to be tested there, even though he is not one of their students. We were there about 2 hours, but I was not in the room while the counselor was administering the tests, so until we have our follow-up appointment in two weeks, I won’t really have any answers. But my initial impression, just from the few words I exchanged with her after the tests, is that he performed well, but had a hard time concentrating and staying focused. Which is fairly consistent with what I have observed and experienced as his mother/teacher.

While Alex was doing his tests, I was given a bunch of forms to fill out in the lobby. Forms that ask questions about your child’s behavior, academic performance, social skills, etc. Most were answered simply by circling a number, but there was one that had a few open-ended questions with lines for writing your response. About halfway into this form, I encountered the question, “What concerns you most about your child?” followed by, “What do you like best about your child?” That second question brought me up short because I wasn’t expecting it, given the context. I mean, wasn’t I there because of my child’s problems, whatever those are perceived or determined to be? I wasn’t there to talk about his good characteristics or skills; I was there to get some answers for how to deal with those things society deems unacceptable!

And then I realized, I have been so focused on problematic behaviors over the last several weeks — ever since he started attending Hansei — that I have failed to recognize all the things about Alex that are wonderful and special and endearing. I have allowed the notes being sent home by his teachers describing the ways he is acting out to stress me out to the point where I am struggling to see and praise him for the things he is doing well. Several hours later, as I sit here reflecting on the events of the day, I am so grateful for that question! I’m grateful because it forced me to stop thinking about all the things that are “wrong” with my child and look, really look, for all that’s right and good, unique and precious. I’m a perfectionist, as I’ve mentioned before, and I think I’ve realized that I need to be careful not to let my perfectionism extend to my children, holding them to an unattainable standard and causing them endless frustration in the process.

Here, then, is my answer to the question of “what I like best about my child.” I tried to remember everything I wrote down on the questionnaire. I have also added a few additional thoughts and explanations:

  • He is smart and inquisitive. He knew all the capital letters of the alphabet by the time he was 2; he’s learned not one but 2 foreign languages well enough to communicate with other kids his age (and he’s only 7!); he has an amazing memory and vocabulary; and he soaks up knowledge and information like a sponge. He figures things out so quickly, sometimes it is hard to keep one step ahead of him!
  • He is tender-hearted and compassionate — when he wants to be. He generally plays well and is careful with children who are younger and smaller than him (he has been used to being “bigger” and “older” most of his life). He loves giving gifts, and he is very affectionate. Already, at 7 years old, he understands that there are many poor and disadvantaged people in the world and that he has a responsibility as a person of privilege, to do what he can to help them.  For his sixth birthday, he agreed to collect money for needy children instead of receive presents of his own, and every time he goes out to Kumanii, he takes a backpack filled with little toys to give away to the children he meets on the river.
  • He is outgoing, friendly, and social. He makes new friends easily and loves to be around people. (He gets all this from his father, I know, because this is not my way AT ALL!)
  • He leaps into new situations with confidence and enthusiasm. He is not usually fearful or timid — in fact, sometimes, I wish he was just slightly more cautious so he wasn’t getting hurt so often! He tries new foods without complaining and has a pretty varied palate for a 7-year old (he likes snails, green tea, and Indian curry, for example). We have traveled the world with him since he was a tiny baby, moved many times, enrolled him in school in 2 foreign countries now, and he just takes it all in stride. He handles change better than many adults I know, including myself!

Perspective is so important, and I’m thankful to have regained a little of it today. No matter what happens in 2 weeks, no matter what the results show, no matter how we decide to proceed, I want my son to know that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and that I am so very proud of him, so grateful that he is a part of our family, and so blessed to be his mama!

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We Made It!

Thankful tonight…

  • to have my husband home safe and sound, smelly laundry and all!
  • for my washing machine and running water
  • for the sound of my boys wrestling with their daddy
  • that we made it through the week unscathed and without any trips to the emergency room (always my greatest fear when Rusty is away)
  • for a productive and fun homeschooling week
  • for a coffee break with my sister in the middle of the week
  • for sleepovers with cousins
  • for the two hard-working ladies who come during the week to help me with the cleaning (a definite perk to living in Ecuador!)
  • for all the fun I had with my kids this week (The “When Dad’s Away Activity Jar” was a big hit!)

I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked on all my projects, but I am not allowing myself to dwell on that right now! Just reflecting with gratitude on the past week and looking forward to a whole week of having Rusty home before the medical campaign. We’re even going to get to take our Date Night on Monday!

1,000 Reasons to be Thankful

At the first of last year, I shared on our family blog my intent to take the Joy Dare on Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, and count 1,000 gifts in 2012. I got a little behind what with the craziness of December, and then I lost December’s print-out on our trip, but this afternoon, I stole a few quiet moments to sit outside on our veranda and catch up. The idea is to list three things you are thankful for each day of the year, resulting in over 1,000 gifts listed by the year’s end. If I numbered correctly, then there are exactly 1,098 items on my list! That’s a lot to be thankful for!

This has been an interesting experiment for me. I’ve certainly become more aware of all that I have to thank God for. Sometimes, my eyes were opened to gifts that I probably would not have recognized otherwise. At the same time, it was a stretch for me to discover gifts that were “ugly-beautiful” or the gifts that Ann calls “hard eucharisteo,” those things that are difficult to give thanks for, that maybe don’t even seem like gifts at all.

On her blog, Ann points to research that suggests that people who develop an “attitude of gratitude” are generally happier, and have less stress, more energy, and better relationships. I can’t say that I really found any of that to be true for me this year. I think I would like to try this again at some point in the future when I feel like I’ve regained my equilibrium somewhat, when I’m “normal” again (whatever that means – ha!). Honestly, at times this year, I felt like all my gratitude practice was doing was keeping the depression and the discouragement at bay. I suppose if being thankful does at least that much, that’s probably a good thing.

Ann is doing the Joy Dare again this year, if you are interested in joining in. Click here for all the details. And if you don’t subscribe to her blog, well, you really should!