Celebrating a decade

Colin, age 10

Colin, age 10

If you have a kid that’s giving you a run for your money, we have one too.  And tomorrow we get to celebrate a decade of life with him.   A decade I wouldn’t change for the world.

It gets better.  How do I know?  Because that one that gives me the biggest headache, the deepest heartache, also gives me the greatest joy.  And the joy comes from seeing him learn how to navigate the world in the package he was given.  It’s not enough to know that the kids like Colin who we lovingly describe as “pieces of work” are the same people that will change our world as adults (something I do believe), you want to see some of that work evolving on your watch.

None of us like to fail, some of us crumble at the mere potential of failure.   Colin is of the crumbling variety (crashing and burning in the toddler years), so historically he has avoided things he doesn’t feel like he’s good at.  So when Colin recently announced that he likes to draw faces in Art even though he’s not good at it, I did a little happy dance.  Ahh! How much more of the world opens up to you when you are willing to try something new.

And here, the world is opening up for Colin.  Sometimes it takes launching an inflexible person into a new and uncomfortable situation for them to see that they are more adaptable than they ever gave themselves credit for.  It’s a big reason we decided to make the move.  We wanted to give Colin some practice at learning how to deal with change (before adolescence hit.)  Colin was the first of our family to settle in to our new life here, and with that has come huge strides in confidence and independence.   He has taken the city bus on his own, has decided to forgo Baseball (a sport he’s good at) in the spring to try Track, and boldly uses his French to order for us in restaurants.

We celebrated Colin’s birthday this past weekend with a “Day of Colin.”  We did this in lieu of a birthday party since Colin couldn’t figure the right 10 year old party idea to host the six girls (three sets of twin girls he’s befriended) and three boys he wanted to invite.   (Friends with girls, consider this a heads up.)  The “Day of Colin” started with student-lead parent/teacher conferences at school (where he’s loving it), a stop at an athletic store for him to pick out something he wanted (technical shirt #38, Nike socks, and shoelaces!) his first club basketball game (where is the youngest and smallest player on his team and scored 8 points in the first quarter), homemade chocolate chip cookies (poorly executed), an indoor pool/water park (involving naked spa I mentioned on Facebook) and going out for hamburgers.

Coin, for 2!

Coin, for 2!

There was much anticipation about all parts to the day, but maybe most about the hamburgers.  We had heard rave reviews about a café in Luxembourg that served great hamburgers, and it was a craving we had not satisfied since we moved to Europe.   We got there right when it opened (Brett dropped us off while he parked because we were THAT excited), and it was as cute and as good-smelling as advertised.  Happy Burger Birthday!  Almost.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t seat us.  We didn’t have a reservation and they were booked for the evening. For Hamburgers?  And to add insult to injury, the small dining room was completely empty at the moment we learned this news.  Now this is hard for people who are flexible, with 42 years of life experience, and who have not had red meat in two months.  But for the almost 10 year old...??? 

Yep, Colin rolled with it.  Completely.   He shook off the disappointment without any fuss, and rebounded with a suggestion for Plan B.  And Plan B – an Italian trattoria down the road – was a place we hadn’t even yet been too.  That’s the next level of flexibility when you can change course when something doesn’t go according to plan, and change that course to yet another unknown. 

But above all, Colin’s growth has been manifested most in his ability to receive love.  Some people need more convincing than others that they are deeply loved.  And when you are sandwiched between two brothers who are happy-go-lucky and you are not, it takes more than verbal assurances of love or love in action.  It also takes love between the lines.  Because people with a glass half empty hear more than just what you’re saying, they also hear your heart.  And you’re not born ready to handle that kind of input.  Because as we know, not everything being unsaid is a bed of roses.  So you need some skills on how to tune that kind of antennae.

The upside of those feelers however is that you have this incredible gateway towards sensitivity and empathy.  Colin knows even through a pinched smile when I am angry or frustrated.   He can feel when he’s in a situation that is “sketch.”   He can tell when someone at school is sad.  And now, he can say it himself when he is sad like he did yesterday to his brother in email – and know that it will pass.  In Seattle, when Colin was asked to say our dinner time prayer – he would always lead us in a time of silence (which was wonderfully welcome until it was interrupted by a giggle or burp, or both.)  I think that was largely because he didn’t know what to say.  Here though, Colin is volunteering most every night and he prays these long beautiful, heartfelt prayers that involve not just our family, but kids in Africa, and are layered with words of gratitude like last night where Colin thanked God for MY generosity towards him (which either had something to do with allowing him to raid my wallet for change or perhaps something more…) 

Optimism that comes naturally is a wonderful thing, but the kind that requires practice through gratitude is maybe even a little sweeter because it comes with a decision to ignore the part that isn’t always full. 

Happy Birthday to the kid that fills me up!