Though we adopted all five of our children, we have heard many times over the years how much the kids look like either (or both) C and I. I guess it's funny to think that sometimes God gives adoptive families like ours a little help in this way so we can feel more cohesive as a unit or something. I've heard the same thing from other adoptive families, so I definitely feel like it's no accident.
My youngest sister and I were talking the other day about how sometimes we'll do something and suddenly we see ourselves as our mother. She got some good news and did a little happy dance and suddenly was shocked to remember our mother doing something very similar at times in her life. And every once and awhile, I'll see my hand motion to one of the kids or something (out of the corner of my eye) and it's like, "Whoa! Mom's hand on the end of my arm!" It's freaky.
Our mom is not freaky; she's beautiful and kind and wonderful and I could only hope to be more like her in so many ways, but she is herself. I am myself. When suddenly I am doing something characteristically her, it's just ... odd.
Just lately, though, I've caught our sons becoming more like their daddy than I could have ever imagined. And with three boys, each of them are reflecting his personality in their own ways. As much as I love my husband, it seems only right that there is only one of him and now, to see our sons taking on some of his characteristics, it's just a little freaky. In a good way, of course.
H is coming up to the age C was when he and I met. I was 12 and he was just 13. H will be 12 next month.
H struggles with his self-esteem and body-awkwardness a lot of the time. Some of this is due to some of his developmental differences and some of it is just the age -- middle school, ug. C was a lot like that till he got into high school and decided he was going to change his opinion of himself (God knew I'd need a strong, confident man to lead me). Both C and H (ha! C & H) are oldest sons, both of them are completely head-strong and stubborn. Both have the makings of good leaders.
C exhibits a constant desire to serve others in the community, a willingness to start up a conversation with just about anyone and a heart for the Lord and I see all these things really blossoming in H. What H lacks in maturity, he more than makes up for in energy and enthusiasm (in all his pessimism, there is still a certain enthusiasm for the Lord's work that I admire and hope to foster). C is a hard worker and I had to chuckle the other day when H came to me and said, "I'd like to talk to you and Daddy about doing some babysitting or something to earn some money." Not even 12 and he's already looking to earn a living to support himself (and his future family).
Just last night, I took three of the kids to Toys R Us to spend some Rewards Bucks we had earned when shopping for Christmas gifts (they were about to expire). I left H and O in the Legos section where they were instructed to find something around $20 that all three boys could share. When I returned, H had a Lego dumptruck set in his hands. I asked him why he chose that.
He said, "Well, I know how much Z loves trucks and since he's not here to help us choose, I wanted to pick something he'd appreciate. So I narrowed it down to three choices and I asked O to tell me which one he thought Z would like the most."
I said, "Are you sure you're happy with this?" (He's never been as "into" cars and trucks as the other boys.)
He said, "If it was just me, I'd probably pick something else, but I want to make sure -- especially since it is Legos -- that it's a set we'll all appreciate. So I'm fine with this one."
I nearly broke into tears at his selflessness! He'd been eyeing some Lego Minifigures as we walked in, so I told him to grab one as a reward for his good leadership and selfless attitude. It was worth spending an extra $3.50 above the Reward Bucks to encourage this kind of behavior. I loved that he not only thought of the brother at home, but included his youngest brother in the decision making. Good stuff.
Then there is Z. Like his daddy, Z usually captivates the audience with hardly any effort. I find that age has increased my cynicism and sarcastic side, but my humor is not easily understood by others. I love irony and enjoy really organic humor that stems from our idiosyncrasies as human beings. People either get me or they don't. But C and Z, their style of humor (when it's elevated above the stuff that seems funny to boys of all ages -- body function jokes, mostly) has a mass appeal. They both are experts in storytelling and people want to listen to what they have to say -- even when they aren't intending to be jokey or funny. They are interesting when they speak. I'm envious of their good brains in the face of whomever. Where I turn into a stammering mess with my foot in my mouth, still trying to pull that look off, they flourish and overflow with verbal talent I will never understand completely.
Like C, Z also has some kind of natural teaching ability. For as long as I can remember (like back when C tutored me in high school science), C has been able to teach difficult concepts with really good analogies and descriptions that make that stuff stick. Z was the one who taught both of his brothers to ride their bikes without training wheels -- Z, not us. That had to be mental capacity for teaching and not brawn -- he wasn't strong enough to hold either of them up. He doesn't have a lot of patience yet (maybe with maturity he'll grow in this area -- and me, too), but when the opportunity arises for him to teach one of his younger siblings something, he excels in that area. I can try to teach J and O to read a sentence a hundred different ways, Z will teach it once and suddenly they get it. I know that when J and O finally do get reading down, Z will have been a major part of the reason why.
Finally, there is O. I often feel like O possesses half of H's qualities and half of Z's, with a sprinkling of J's. When it comes time for his birthday or Christmas or other gift-giving opportunities, he is the hardest one to buy for. He is so much like the other kids that we don't know yet what is uniquely him. So most of the time he gets lumped into one of two categories. He's either one of "the little kids" with J or he's one of "the boys" with H and Z. Sometimes I think we'll finally start figuring him out when he's the last kid in the house (if he hasn't become President of the United States by then).
But even though his own personality is a mix of what I see in the other kids, I do catch moments between the lines where there is clearly a unique person in there. It's in those cracks that I see the incredible and natural intelligence and ability to learn things quickly like his daddy. C has this knack for remembering bits of trivia that probably make him a much more interesting person, but overall aren't necessarily helpful for survival. He is a quick learner and picks up new material without hardly any effort at all. This ability makes him successful at work and everywhere. The stuff he knows is incredible. And O ... he's like that.
For all his developmental struggles over the years because of his late start in the real world, O is incredibly quick at learning new things. And sometimes seemingly insignificant, trivial details that I have no idea where he's learned them, but there they are. He baffles me! He is a whiz at memorizing things and this has been the key to helping him learn to read and do other things. His brain must be huge.
The other similarity I see is his persistence. There have been times when this quality about C has become almost annoying. If he's stuck on a problem he's solving, he won't stop to sleep or eat, he plows ahead until the problem is resolved. O does that. I remember when he learned to ride a skateboard, and I showed him (from my brief attempt at becoming a skateboarder girl) how to pop the skateboard up into his hands to carry it. None of the other kids had gotten it. But there's O, spending an entire day working on that one trick until he got it. He wasn't hungry, he didn't want to come in, he just wanted to learn that trick. He did, too. He's also learned handstands and cartwheels before all the other kids, because once he puts his mind on figuring something out, there's no separating him from the task of getting it down.
C is a good man. He's a little rough around the edges -- not always ready for every public setting -- but deep down, his heart is golden. And any setting he's not ready for is really just not ready for him -- nor do they deserve him. He's a great leader because he strives to serve. He's entertaining. He's interesting. He's extremely smart. He's compassionate and caring. He's a big guy and some people are intimidated by his stature, but I know what's underneath his gruff exterior. Once people get to know him, they love him. His personality is perfect for someone like me who really would rather not be in public -- all eyes are on him when we venture out. I like it that way. He is my protector and my love. I thank the Lord there will be three more men in this world like him someday.