30 November 2011

Now I know the Luo word for "MINE!"

Innocent, our seven-year-old nephew has come to stay with us for a few weeks.  It's been a very even mix of delightful and mundane, with a sprinkling of unaccountable tears (and not just on the little boy's part, if you know what I'm saying).  I’m going to brag on the boy a little bit, and explain one or two things I’ve been learning from the experience.

I really enjoy the energy and interests of boys.  (I very carefully crafted that sentence...I don't want any weird traffic on my blog from pedophiles!)  Ever since the age of twelve, when I first started doing child care in my church's 2-year-olds room, I've always had success connecting with boys.  My younger brother and I used to spend hours and hours tromping around in the woods around our house playing "Army," a game mostly composed of dressing up in fatigues and occasionally diving behind logs or pretending to shoot at “enemies.”  As a youth pastor, I had a posse of teenage boys regularly haunting my house and car.  The clutch in my car was never quite the same after teaching several of them how to drive.  From age three through college, my best friend was always a boy.  Somehow God wired me to “get” boys, and I really hope that God gives me sons so that I can put that to work raising little men.

In some ways, Innocent reminds me of myself as a child, in that he is extremely sensitive and wears his emotions on his sleeve.  Heaven forbid that he should receive the smallest injury or frustration while he’s tired, because a meltdown is coming.  He’s getting used to sharing his uncle with me, but I’ve definitely received some scowls when he thinks Uncle is paying too much attention to Auntie.  He becomes devastated if he has misbehaved or even just thinks he misbehaved.  A few days ago he sent himself to bed because Uncle corrected him for doing something he knew he wasn’t supposed to.  He wasn’t punishing himself; he was just too upset to stay in the room with us.  The photo above was taken when he was upset with me for some reason I can't remember and fell asleep on the doorstep watching for Fred to come home from work.  The times of tears are very few compared to his laughter and smiles, though.  Innocent has a great smile, with two missing teeth in front, and laughs quickly.  I’m learning to pay attention to his energy, his diet and meal times to help him maintain a positive attitude.  I’m also very aware that my own attitude coming into the day makes a difference, since he is so sensitive to the emotional tenor of the people around him.  It’s a new level of responsibility for my impact on the atmosphere of our home, not always easy with pregnancy hormones raging.  I am learning that I have to take care of my own sleep and food patterns so that I have the resources to maintain a stable, peaceful atmosphere for Innocent.

Innocent is really smart and very quick to learn, which is so helpful since our communication is limited to the little English he has learned or picks up from Fred and I.  He’s going off to a boarding school in January that requires English, so part of the strategy for bringing him to stay with us now was for him to get used to hearing and speaking English.  My mom had sent a kindergarten activity book that teaches numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc, and Innocent spends about an hour each day writing and coloring in the book.  Last night he wrote his own simple addition problems and solved them while we watched the news.  He’s almost learned to tie his own shoes.  Although it’s a challenge to continue to find ways of engaging his intellect, he is good at entertaining himself, playing with his Lego creations and animals or singing himself songs or just talking, talking, talking to himself.

Football (soccer) is a major connection point, and some of our most delightful times have been outside kicking the football around.  Fred likes Arsenal (an English Premier League team), so Innocent has learned the names of the major players on the Arsenal squad, especially when he’s scoring goals.  Here they are watching a match together while I work at the dining room table.  Watching Fred play with and take care of Innocent has given me a whole new reason to love my husband, and as we work together to meet the boy’s needs, it is connecting us in a new way.  In spite of difficult moments and distractions from work, I am really valuing the time with Innocent and learning a lot about preparing myself for full-time motherhood!

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