To all you future parents…If you gain the ability to influence your child’s birthday in any way, for heaven’s sake, don’t make it in December!
Exactly two years ago, we sat in a small office in Kyiv, Ukraine, asking permission to adopt Lena.
Today, she turns Sweet 16.
So much has changed in two years
- Two years ago, she barely spoke any English
- Last year, she passed the state standardized testing with no help.
- This year, she read Romeo and Juliet…and understood it.
- Today (halfway through her Freshman year), she has a B average with no accommodations.
Lena is amazing.
- She gets Mark’s puns. And groans at them.
- She is surrounded by a group of friends and always has something on the social schedule
- She works hard to fit in
- She misses a lot of people she left behind in Ukraine
There are areas where she’s a completely wholly typical teenager; to the point that a lot of times we forget that she hasn’t been here that long. In some ways, it feels like it’s always been like this, our little family of four.
Sometimes, though, we are reminded that she didn’t start out here. Sometimes it’s a word that we are surprised she doesn’t know. Like “faucet” or “griddle.” Other times, it’s when things pop out of my mouth before my brain engages…”Were you born in a barn” or “Were you dropped on your head?” (I’m not winning any Mother-Of-The-Year awards here…)
Sometimes, I expect her to act “normal.” She’s so good at it, that I get surprised when something triggers her, when she struggles with something, when she misses a point. When something happens that upsets her.
Lena knows right from wrong…better than a lot of teenagers. She knows the risks of poor choices. She is outspoken. She is bold in her convictions. If she sees someone making a mistake or a bad choice, she’s right there.
Sure she has room to grow, to learn to temper her boldness with gentle respect, to speak the truth in love. But compassion in in her core.
Because when she sees someone cry, she is the first to put her arm around them. Like she did on a summer day in a parking lot in Ukraine nearly five years ago. When I fell in love with her for the first time.
Today, my precious Lena, you turn 16. There is so much still for you to learn, and our time with you has been too short. My prayer for you is that you don’t grow up too quickly…I need you around a little longer.