I'm sorry for my absence from blogging.
My children were sick all last week. Husband and I were busy trying to get each of us to work on days when we needed to be at work, and trading off as necessary. It was not a great week at our house. Certainly lots of people had it worse, so I shouldn't complain.
Lana has hit me with some seriously, seriously heavy stuff this week, and I had an upsetting conference with Gabriel's teacher. I'm not even sure where to start.
Forgive me if this starts to feel free form and pointless.
Gabriel's teacher tells me that Gabe has trouble focusing on the material and that she often finds him reading a novel under his desk instead of paying attention. While she appreciates his love of reading, his failure to pay attention when she is giving directions means that he is coming up and asking her to repeat directions for assignments.
In spite of this, Gabriel has As and one A-. I asked if everyone in the 4th grade has grades that high. She said, "no, there are other children in the class who would much prefer to have Gabriel's grades. But he needs to pay attention. The material is getting more difficult. If he doesn't pay attention, his grades will slip."
I don't know what to make of this. Gabe can focus for a long time if something is interesting to him. (He can build a huge Lego creation, or read a book for a long time. The book that he is currently hiding under his desk is book three of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" which I think is catalogued at a 6th grade level.)
I've spent a good long time wringing my hands about this. The bottom line is that I think that Gabe is partly bored at school, and partly he does need to focus and be more responsible. His teacher seems to think he has some ADD, although she concedes that he is bright enough to cover the areas in which the ADD is a problem. She stated categorically that he is not bothersome or hyper and that he is well-liked and gets along with everyone, that he volunteers answers (when he is paying attention) and has good problem solving ideas.
I am considering signing him up for karate lessons so that he can learn some self-discipline? Is that a bad idea? Thoughts?
And then there is Lana. I have heard the following statements from Lana in the past 10 days:
Lana (out to dinner for her birthday with our friends H&L) - to H, "I wish you were my mommy.
" (H & Lana have a special relationship and they are extremely fond of each other. Lana appears to need to push boundaries - and I think she still isn't convinced that I am not going to leave. She still asks pretty regularly if I will always be her mommy.)
Lana, after I have yelled at her for being awful to her brother - "Are you still my mommy when you are mad at me?"
(My response was, "There is nothing you could do or say that would make me not be your mommy anymore." She eyed me with suspicion.)
Lana, to me, after yet another fight between her and Gabriel, "I hate Gabe! I don't want him to live with us anymore!"
(And I told her that it hurt my heart when she said that because I love both of them, and they are going to be brother and sister forever, and they are stuck with each other, and that's the way it is.)
Lana (after attending a birthday party for her friend Charity**) - "I was the only brown person there. There weren't any other Indian people there
." (Okay, I have to admit, this made me scratch my head for a second. So I said, "all of the other girls at the party had white skin?" Lana says, "No, they all had skin the same as YOUR skin." So, I said, "why do you think you're Indian?" and Lana answered, "because my skin is brown like Rekha's, and Rekha** is Indian." "Rekha is Indian because her parents are from India. You are Vietnamese, because you are from Vietnam." "Why is Rekha's skin and my skin the same color then?" This conversation went on for QUITE A LONG TIME. We talked about how our friends Miho and Keiko have skin that is pale like my skin but hair and eyes like Lana's. We talked about how her friend Becca** has skin like hers, but hair that is very different. We talked about how her friend Katie has skin and hair like Lana's, but a mommy and daddy who look like Husband and I. We talked about how people come in all shades. This is something that Lana spends a lot of time thinking about. What I find particularly interesting is that Lana does not identify at all with the one other child in her class who is Southeast Asian (her mother is Thai and her father is white). Lana is insistent that there is nothing similar between herself and that child. Insistent to the point of obstinacy, almost. I wonder if it's simply that she likes Rekha and Becca and doesn't like this other child? I told her that if she wanted a word that described both her and Rekha and also describe Miho and Keiko and, L~ (the Thai child in her class that she doesn't like), that the word she was looking for was Asian. It is clear to me that this is weighing heavily on Lana's mind. I think she and I need to sit down with a map and talk about race and geography in general terms.)
Lana (as we were getting mommy-daughter pedicures, to the girl who was painting Lana's toes) - "How come you got the same name as me?"
(The girl's name was Lan, and it was on her name tag.) The girl painting Lana's toes said, "Your name is Lan?" "My name is Lana now." The girl painting her toes looked at me, and I said, "Her Vietnamese name is Bich Lan." So, the girl says, "You're from Vietnam?" and Lana says, "Yes." And the girl said, "How long have you been here?" and Lana says, casually, "three years." The girl says, "That's how long I've been here! You like it here?" and Lana says, "Yes, yes I do. But sometimes I miss the food." (At which point, I had a salon full of Vietnamese people explaining to me where to buy the best Vietnamese food. Which, in fact, involves driving to a suburb of Detroit, about 90 minutes away.)
I'm not sure where I'm going with these vignettes. I think I just want to convey that Lana, at the age of 7, is extremely self-aware.
She knows she looks different. She knows that people have loved her and left her and she doesn't have that much faith that the people she loves right now won't leave. She's knows that she's from Vietnam, but she's not entirely sure what that means. Some days, when we ask her if she wants to visit, she is adamant that she does not. Other days, she misses her foster mom and wants to see her again.
I feel like I can't get my feet underneath me in this parenting gig these days...I had a date with Husband on Friday night, and we were sitting in a Japanese restaurant, eating sushi, and I found myself missing Japan, missing the time that we lived there. I expressed as much to Husband, and then I said, "I'm not sure if I miss Japan, or if I miss the luxury of all that time we had, to just be alone together." It was easier then, when I wasn't wearing my heart outside my body...
*The Gaslight Anthem, Great Expectations**
not their real names