When I try to verbalize what life with 6 kids is like, I forget not everyone wakes up with rubber snakes in their beds or baby dolls in the fridge. My mornings start out awake in bed listening intently for the distant rumblings of consciousness. Even children know the best way to sneak around to do things they shouldn’t is quietly. I creep down the long hallway past the room where the three little kids share, peering in to see who is left, and who is likely to ambush me before I make my way to the kitchen. On a good day at least one of the little kids are still in bed, and on a really good day one big kid is awake dealing with them already, although this is rare for summer time. I round the corner where the two closed doors identify to me that likely Lori and Alina are still asleep, and I creep down the stairs hoping to not see anything too hard to clean up. Most mornings before I even get to the the freezer to grab the coffee beans for the grinder, I’ve already been met with a parade of “HI MOM!” and requests for everything you can imagine. It takes about 10 minutes to make french press coffee, which I do every morning, and in that time you’d never believe how much breakfast you can make, diapers you can change, and orders you can give, while trying run my brain enough on empty to create the sustenance for life: Coffee.
My kids have no problem asking for help, comfort, or endless requests for frivolous items. I’ve never counted but I’d be willing to bet I hear about at least three injuries an hour, from the moment my feet hit the bottom step first thing in the morning, all the way until after they’ve been put to bed and the floor turns to hot lava if you get up. I’m not sure if it’s the blaring Russian music that gives them the confidence to traverse the floor of lava to be told nothing but to make a return trip back to bed, or just the delayed brain functions of fatigue, either way it happens reliably.
The blaring Russian continues until I can’t take it anymore and ask her to use headphones. It is only then she tells me they broke. She never mentions things like this, and also never asks for help. I notice as she talks to me a huge scab on her elbow with various stages of picking. I ask her what happened, she shrugs and walks away. As my kids constantly bombard me with their various complaints, I have one girl who is all to acquainted with suffering silently, even if the suffering isn’t necessary.
I hear from Alina’s friends on Facebook. They message me like we go way back. “How is Alina? Do you want to keep her forever?” they ask. Honestly I’m not even sure this girl wants to stay forever, I explain to her various friends that keep popping up. They always insist she does, she’s been dreaming of a family, they ‘know it well’. The girl that doesn’t share anything with us, except the brief story of an alcoholic mother who died too young, and a father who was poverty stricken and died from a broken heart, which landed her in the orphanage at only 2 months old. Her conversational skills are lacking, likely from minimal opportunity, and I don’t speak enough Russian to create chit chat. I’m so thankful for our family friend Yelena and her family who have organized days for us to allow Alina to speak Russian with no translation, and be understood. When piano lessons resume next week, we will have yet another Ukrainian for her to speak to. Six months ago I couldn’t find Moldova or Ukraine on a map, now I am learning to navigate regions and culture like it’s my job. I’m starting to love Ukraine and its people.
Having 5 kids that never stop letting you know their plight is exhausting. “He’s being mean to me!” is probably the most common sentence I hear all day. Having one kid you have to drag the plight from is one of those additional bonus missions you weren’t really prepared for. I’m so bombarded by noise and questions all day, it is very difficult to beg to hear more of the thing you wish you could just get a break from. The most important part to remember is I brought her here, she didn’t ask to come, and it is my job to give her the things she needs but cannot ask for. This is my duty even if I would rather just have nice quiet moment.
“I do not like to learn English, this bores me.”
“Learning English is essential if you ever plan to live in a country that speaks it.”
“I will think about this.”
We are coming into the best three weeks of my year, the Bates Youth Arts Program. The Dance Festival brings family from all over the world, and through the arts we require no translation. This program was essential to helping Lori integrate to life in Maine, and into our family, I hope the same proves for Alina. YAP fills in and the spaces in our hearts we didn’t realize were empty. The most exciting, proud, and saddest day of my summer is festival finale, where the culmination of the program is exploding with emotion, sweat, and the hugs you wish never ended. This is the day we say thank you again to our community for embracing us for three beautiful weeks, for extending themselves to be part of our family, and sharing with us some magic that can’t be explained. As I get ready to send my third child to YAP, one that doesn’t speak English or have any knowledge of family, I am literally on the edge of my seat. I am not sure how she will traverse the lessons and instructions, the cafeteria or the meditation. I do know that our summer family will embrace her and make it work, but I continue to have the anxiety and guilt of placing this burden on them. This is something time will hopefully ease, as they assure me everything will be fine.
One of the biggest challenges in my life is allowing other people to share in my burdens, because this is what community does. There is no reason to isolate yourself to avoid burdening others, in giving to others you are healed. Allow people to help, and in this healing you will have more of yourself to help others. The whole cycle opens by allowing other people to hold you up and help you out.
Here is to the best three weeks summer can offer, and the awareness of my own challenge to be open to embrace the community around me.
Check out Bates Dance Festival Here